Page 29 - OHS, March 2021
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Connectivity has changed nearly every aspect of our lives—both personal and professional.
period of time. Failure to quickly retrieve the worker means that care for any injuries that may have been sustained before or during the fall is delayed.
Should a worker be conscious after the incident, he or she may be able to call for help with a radio or mobile phone, if available. However, this isn’t the case if the worker becomes unconscious through injury or a health event before or during the fall—even if a radio or mobile phone is accessible.
Fall detection technology within connected safety wearables that can identify the sudden acceleration of a fall exists. Technology is designed in such a way that the detection sensitivity is adjustable while also providing the worker with the option to check in and confirm that all is okay, otherwise an external team is notified. Falls can be differentiated from other work activity, and if a connected wearable is dropped, the worker can confirm that all is well to avoid an alert to a live response team.
SOS Trigger
Connected technology can also provide an SOS trigger, such as a button or fool-proof latch that gives the user a way to call for help manually. Every fall situation will have different dynamics and most often, there will be a drop with a characteristic acceleration that can be detected. Fall arrest systems can then slow down the fall, bringing the worker to safe stop, avoiding further injury.
But some falls may be more complex, particularly if there are other objects involved and the work surfaces involved. A signature acceleration may not be easily identified from normal work activity and movements, potentially leading to a missed fall detection. In this situation, a worker who is conscious can call for help instantly using an SOS trigger. To accommodate an unconscious worker scenario, where he or she is unable to call for help, a periodic check-in timer can be turned on as a failsafe, automatically calling for help without a worker check-in.
Push-to-Talk and Two-Way Emergency Voice Calling
An important consideration, particularly when it comes to incident detection, is team and emergency response communication. Some safety wearables feature push-to-talk (PTT) connectivity, enabling a connected safety device to operate like a walkie-talkie. This connectivity facilitates routine collaboration across teams, but can also be used if a fall incident occurs. By converging this functionality into a single device, workers have one less piece of equipment to carry and maintain. However, unlike traditional radios, PTT does not require a radio license and eliminates the need to invest in a separate, costly fleet of radios.
Some connected safety wearables also feature two-way
emergency voice calling. ThThis feature allows a live response team to speak directly with a worker who has fallen, using a built- in speakerphone that automatically answers. Two-way voice communication provides immediate situational awareness to ensure help is delivered in the shortest amount of time.
Location Technology
Instrumental in providing a rapid and appropriate response to a worker who experienced a serious fall from height is knowing who was involved in the incident and where he or she is located. Connected wearables feature incident detection alongside location technology, cloud-connectivity and alerting to a life response team. Empowered by two-way voice calling and PTT, monitoring personnel can quickly assess the well-being of workers in real-time and dispatch emergency responders to the exact location of the fall. Through a prompt response, the worker is retrieved from the fall protection harness quickly, reducing the overall risk to the worker of prolonged exposure.
As more companies undergo digital transformation, connected technologies are often implemented to improve safety and operational performance, directly taking advantage of location technology. To address privacy concerns or specific policies your company may have, connected wearable devices can also be configured to report location data only when alerting a live monitoring team of an incident. Some businesses create an agreement not to use employee location data for punitive purposes and limit access to such data only through certain employee roles and under particular circumstances.
Data Science & Preventative Safety
When using cloud-connected wearable devices, data from each device can be streamed to the cloud. Data science is the process of taking the information streamed from wearable devices and applying it in different ways to gain valuable insight into where and what kind of safety incidents occur—from slips, trips and falls, injuries and gas exposures to falls from elevation.
Beyond fall protection, data helps you identify a problem using hard facts and enables worksite managers to subsequently develop a well-informed, evidence-based solution. It takes the guess work out of addressing workplace safety, allowing you to better visualize safety incidents, address them in real-time and make improvements that mitigate future events. Using analytics and visualization tools, you can identify opportunities to hit key safety objectives such as reducing incidents and near misses, improving emergency response time and eliminating safety worksite safety hazards.
Lone workers exist in nearly every industry across the world, and the current COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the number of lone workers through reduced staffing levels and split shifts. While fall protection equipment is, and will remain, the first line of defense to prevent falls from height, connected safety solutions become critical when a serious fall does occur. It provides workers and managers with the peace of mind that help is on the way in the event of an emergency and supports a safer, more efficient workplace where all workers make it home safe at the end of each day.
Brendon Cook is the CPO & Co-founder of Blackline Safety.

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