IoT, Edge Analytics and Cognitive are supporting enhanced worker health and safety

By | 3 minute read | September 30, 2016

Industry 4.0 and edge analytics for worker safety

If you have been following along in our manufacturing blog series, you will have seen have cognitive manufacturing transforms manufacturing in three focused ways – intelligent assets and equipment to reduce unnecessary down time, cognitive process and operations to drive quality and enhance decision making and smarter resources using data from individuals, equipment and locations improve worker health and safety.

A prominent feature of all industrial sites, manufacturing plants, refineries, mining operations and power generation facilities is a large sign generally at the entrance for all the world to see stating how many days since the last “lost time” accident.  Most of these organizations start every meeting with a safety briefing – literally every meeting in the corporation, not just the ones in the plant itself.  And that’s not all, on the corporate web pages for these companies you will see statements along these lines – “We are committed to the health and safety of our people, the environment and the communities in which we operate.”  Bottom line – safety is a big deal in these asset intensive operations and now using new wearable sensor technology, edge analytics and cognitive companies can take worker wellness and safety to the next level. 

IoT: safety for workers

Using a cognitive platform for wearable safety technology to help employees stay safer in dangerous environments – such as exposure to extreme heat or toxic gas, open flames, or operating massive machinery.  The sensor can monitor workers habit in bending and lifting in the workplace by gathering and analyzing sensor data collected from sensors embedded in helmets and wrist bands, the technology, provides real-time alerts to employees and their managers, enabling preventive measures if physical well-being is compromised or safety procedures have not been applied.

Not only is worker safety important, but there is a significant cost to companies whose employees don’t operate plants and equipment in a safe manner, as well as, looking out for their own well-being.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overexertion and falls account for more than $25 billion in workers’ compensation costs in the U.S. Although safety controls and personal protective equipment are mandatory in most hazardous jobs, there is no practical method to verify whether these measures are in fact being followed. In fact, nearly 3 million nonfatal occupational injuries were recorded in 2014.

Wearable technology can transform the way we work today

Wearable technology taps into the Internet of Things for gathering, integrating and analyzing sensor data, and when coupled together with innovative cognitive capabilities and external sources like environment and weather, there is enormous potential for better managing health, wellness and safety to truly help transform the way we work today.

For example, the solution can analyze the data collected from various sensors that continuously monitor the worker’s skin body temperature, heart rate, galvanic skin response and level of activity, correlated with sensor data for ambient temperature and humidity and feed back to a supervisor for intervention. This creates increased awareness of heat stress and exertion injuries providing a solid foundation for increasing worker safety by creating a cognitive feedback loop monitoring the environment around the worker at the plant or job site, as well as, analyzing data from other company sites.

Factory safety and the IoT

Factory safety and the IoT

With edge computing, the amount for data going to the cloud is controlled, saving money while cognitive IoT analyzes the data from employees, equipment and the facilities itself and prescribes actions allowing managers to identify potential trouble spots in the plant, stop risky behaviors by employees and avoid injuries before they happen.  This has a tremendous impact on the total cost for workers. compensation and insurance premiums for a manufacturing facilities.

Combining the technology capabilities of IoT, cognitive analytics and edge, manufacturers can improve one of the most precious resources – employees – making them smarter and provide better safety and well-being. Take a look at our smart manufacturing website, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.