How IoT in Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) can affect the way we work

When the Twilight Zone first aired in 1959 — long before IoT and HSE — the show opening credits stated, “It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.”

Fast forward 70 years to the year 2019. Electronics are part of our everyday lives, electronics that assist us in our day-to- day tasks. Timers are set so we enjoy a cup of coffee as soon as we get out of bed. Machines make decision for us, answer phones, drive cars, and allow us to work more efficiently, smarter. Doors open automatically if you have the proper clearance captured on your badge. Machines connect to one another, interwoven like spider webs. Data streams to multiple locations for decisions almost instantaneously without human intervention. We put a degree of trust in these systems of interwoven electronics every day. We now live what was once seen as futuristic, during a time that could easily have been one of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episodes.

“It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.” – Rod Serling

Meet Phil Serge, a field service technician who typically begins his day being dispatched from his home to a remote site. Phil rarely goes into the office as he moves from site to site and works with minimal supervision. He completes his service orders on time. He never has any issues. And he shows up to work every day. The company assigns the most difficult jobs to Phil with confidence that his skills and expertise will get the job done. The company sees Phil as their most highly rated service technician. But do they treat him with the same value as they do their high priced equipment?

Over the years Phil has been exposed to many unknown risks. He’s exposed to moderate levels of noise, never too loud at any point in time to make him think he should have put on ear muffs. He knows the policies that noise levels above 85 to 90 decibels (dB) require ear muffs. He knows that if he’s standing arm distance apart from a colleague and he needs to shout to be heard, he ought to wear ear protection.

Phil’s work is 25 feet away from the power tools, though, and he will be there only a couple hours. Does he need hearing protection? He doesn’t like to use it. He also doesn’t know that a distance of 25 feet will decrease decibels by only about 28 dB.

Phil has entered a zone of unseen danger

Some power tools emit 120 dB, so Phil is potentially and unknowingly exposing himself to risk of hearing loss. Additionally, as he visits construction sites on a continuous basis, Phil is unaware that constant exposure to dust particles can be harmful.

As he walks through the sites, Phil doesn’t think he needs any personal protection equipment (PPE).  He doesn’t fully understand the health, safety, and environment (HSE) issues that await him. He’s there to address the HVAC. Is he wrong? A single stone paver cut releases enough silica for 29 years of exposure. Sure, Phil covers his mouth as he walks through the dust clouds. But as the cloud dissipates, how much silica remains in the air? He’s not that close to it, is he?

Phil is unaware of this invisible threat to his long term health.

Worker with hardhat

Technicians are facing invisible health hazards that might cause long lasting damage such as hearing loss.

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” – Rod Serling

We can look into the future and predict how electronics, machines, and the connected worker all come together. But the future is now. That technology exists. And the youth of today is living in a world where technology is first, and information is provided near real time and on demand.

Today, sensors are embedded into machines, but technicians are limited by the rawness of the data provided. Fortunately, we’ve developed systems that can put context to the data, to communicate potential workplace hazards along with recommendations for preventing the hazard well before it even exists. With these systems, sensors are placed in the environment. And wearable sensors on the technician help companies keep employees safe. This protects them from the invisible dangers such as silica. Organizations that embrace the future will lead the charge for the future technician: one who is connected, protected, and efficient.

IBM is leading the way.

IBM Maximo Worker Insights and Maximo HSE Manager provide IoT enabled health and safety insights

IBM Maximo Worker Insights and Maximo HSE Manager provide IoT enabled health and safety insights.

 

Imagine a world where everything is connected

The Internet of Things (IoT), in which machines talk to other machines, makes possible the connectivity of the technician. With IBM Maximo Worker Insights, IBM helps organizations add context from individual devices and sensors so that a higher degree of intelligence can be derived.

Utilizing sensors from partners, and the near-real-time and predictive analytics of Maximo Worker Insights, we can understand the decibels of the equipment. Additionally, we can determine:

  • What the dB level is as it relates to the individual technician
  • How long that technician endures that noise level, and
  • What impact it can have on the technician over minutes, hours, days or even years.

Is the employee wearing proper personal protective equipment? And is that PPE functioning properly? We can take that information and apply it to the individual employee’s current hearing capacity.

Organizations can now utilize information to modify their safety procedures and to ensure compliance to standards and regulations. That means preventative action initiates before an adverse event actually occurs. This minimizes the overall risk to the organization as well as to the technician.

Picture if you will a new way to protect your workers

IBM® Maximo® Worker Insights integrates with Maximo Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Manager. Maximo HSE Manager supports many safety related processes including incident management and investigation. This solution includes a comprehensive set of applications that help govern the complete lifecycle for worker related incidents or near-miss events—from first detection to corrective action and statutory reporting.

Therefore as Maximo Worker Insights captures an event, Maximo HSE Manager determines if the event is an actual incident. If so, the incident management process automatically initiates. This process includes a set of standard pre-filled information concerning the incident. Near-real-time data is provided by Maximo Worker Insights concerning the incident to add context to the incident.

To learn more about how Maximo Worker Insights and Maximo HSE Manager together can transform the technician of the future, visit IBM booth #1615 at National Safety Council (NSC) Expo, the largest safety, health and environmental industry, September 9-11 in San Diego.

Visit IBM booth #1615 at National Safety Council (NSC) Expo this September

Visit IBM booth #1615 at National Safety Council (NSC) Expo this September.

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