Why Big is Beautiful

Awaiting AA 408's departure from San Diego, I thought about what made the National Safety Congress & Expo meaningful. The most exciting product news came from two units of our industry's new colossus, Honeywell Life Safety. While not the first to bring "intelligence" to PPE, the company may be the first with the means, expertise, vision, and desire to deliver it on a grand scale.

Dr. Patrick Hogan, Honeywell Analytics' vice president of marketing, discussed an enhanced gas monitor that not only will apprise safety managers and technicians in real time of the exact location of their remote workers at a site, but also will send back data on the environment where they areā€”gas concentrations, temperature, etc. HLS President Mark Levy cited its usefulness after an event like the Kleen Energy explosion in Connecticut, where responders searched for hours to ensure all victims had been found and all employees accounted for. (Connecticut authorities said 144 worked on that Sunday, of whom six died and more than 30 were injured.)

"The accidents that we see out there are people who have gas detectors on. The whole genesis of this product came from a plant manager who said, 'I will never let our employee choose whether he is going to live or die,' " said Ken Schmidt, Honeywell Analytics Portables Americas marketing manager. "I remember talking with him, and he was so devastated that he had lost two employees who had stuck their screaming-in-alarm detectors in their pockets because they just didn't think it was really happening, or who knows what.

"How powerful is it if somebody else also knows what's going on," he continued. "And then, what if they also knew where that person was? How much faster, how much more intelligent could that response be? From the safety aspect, that's been the huge feedback we've had from literally every refinery. Every chemical plant is begging to be a beta site for us."

The full system will be available in late 2011. Schmidt said he knows other companies are working on this, too. Why does being part of Honeywell matter? It allows its units to be entrepreneurial and develop dramatically new products, and they can use technologies developed elsewhere in the company, Schmidt said. "A lot of things that we've incorporated into this product frankly were sitting on the shelves," he said.

Levy said the $1.4 billion Sperian acquisition is "the beginning of the process of investment." The Sperian division also offered "smart" PPE at the expo: Sync stereo ear muffs that automatically limit sound levels to 82 dBA and Enabled Safety Products, a system using RFID tags, 2D barcodes, and hand-held computers to track and manage data from PPE as it is used in a workplace.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Oct 21, 2010