Advancing employee safety through mobile technology

By Kim Obermair

The cost of occupational injuries and illnesses — including worker’s compensation and lost productivity — is roughly $198 billion each year in the US, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On the other side of the globe, Australia’s Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace recently stated, “We owe it to the victims [of workplace injuries and illnesses] and their loved ones to ensure Queensland has strong … laws to protect people on the job.” Though such laws have been in place in Australia for the past several years, the Queensland Government has now promised to ban insurance products that pay occupational health and safety penalties imposed against employers, according to SafetyAtWorkBlog.

Employee safety is top of mind for every CEO, not just because of the significant costs of injuries from lost productivity, but also because of this changing political environment. I believe the combination of injury-related costs and potential executive liability will ensure employee safety is a priority.

Wearable technology and worker safety

How do organizations provide safer environments for their workers? It begins with the new and emerging technologies introduced through the wearables marketplace. While this technology has largely focused on athletics, it can also monitor worker health and safety, allowing for better communication through real-time data. Workers are already required to don hard hats, safety glasses and protective clothing; smart versions of these can track vital signs, detect harmful elements, identify worker locations and detect accidents.

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Networks Asia reports on a recent example: the partnership between DHL and IBM to provide IoT innovations across the supply chain. These devices monitor employee positions and send notifications to forklift operators when there are other employees nearby, and they can direct the operators to take breaks when their vitals show signs of fatigue.

Last year, North Star’s steel mill piloted a solution to boost worker safety. Workers at the mill logged in to IBM’s Employee Wellness and Safety app when their shifts started, and the app paired with workers’ smart helmets and safety vests. The app collected data, tracking workers’ actions and vital signs, and workers and their supervisors received real-time notifications in the event of a safety issue. For example, steelworkers who had been exposed to high temperatures for too long would receive a notification to take a break and drink fluids, and their supervisors would receive a notification to check on him.

The IoT has recently started an explosion in the deployment of sensor-based worker safety solutions, and it will continue. Today, single sensors now have the capability to detect environmental hazards, identify motion and track locations, all at an affordable price. Mobile devices can connect with the sensors providing real-time feedback to workers, supervisors and emergency services as well as streaming data into an IoT database for analysis. And by leveraging the cloud, companies can design and deploy these solutions with minimal impact to the organization.


IoT safety solutions

At IBM, our worker safety solution software accomplishes the following:

  • Supports numerous wearable devices
  • Has a mobile application for both the worker and supervisor
  • Accumulates the data in IoT databases with the ability to integrate into the corporate health, safety and environment (HSE) systems of record

IBM has already designed a set of use cases, or shields. Our shields address safety issues such as overexertion, dehydration, slips and falls, gas detection and collisions. Leveraging these shields, a company can design and deploy a proof of concept in weeks.

If your organization requires maintaining high key performance indicators for HSE, we can help you address a broad array of safety concerns. Feel free to schedule a conversation with us to learn more.

Written By

Kim Obermair

Information Technology Entrepreneur

Kim has over 20 years experience as an entrepreneur in Information Technology. He is an Associate Partner for the Mobile Practice within IBM Global Business Services where he is responsible of developing and launching new product and service offerings in North America. Before IBM,…