Katharina Meese explains how to protect workers and increase efficiency
Our demanding world of work is primarily driven by speed and profitability. Even though companies have to achieve top quality, they must meet tight deadlines. There is hardly room for glitches, bumps or mishaps on the road to success. And although protecting staff from harm should be a priority in any line of business, when it comes to industrial workplaces, health and safety issues become paramount. Jobs in production, fabrication, manufacturing or construction carry a high risk for disruptions. They are caused by accidents and injuries among workers or malfunctions of machinery and equipment. Therefore, it is imperative to avoid delays or downtime, whatever the reason.
Faced with the challenge of keeping costs low, outputs high, and the workforce healthy and alert, companies would do well to turn to digital solutions such as those from safety and medical technology provider Dräger. In the field of smart safety, digitalisation is opening up impressively functional possibilities by forming the basis for networking and controlling systems, connecting sensors, and using artificial intelligence. The proper hardware and software help to standardise processes and increase efficiency in complex systems.
Monitoring people and infrastructure
Before looking at the downstream analysis of the collected data, the live monitoring of the information (of a specific industrial work situation) is carried out. It works in two ways: monitoring of people and facilities. For instance, a worker’s portable multi-gas detector with a Bluetooth interface sends data to the control room via the cloud throughout the day. This provides total plant visibility and creates a safe working environment, along with stationary measurements and video footage. Live monitoring also enables informed decisions, e.g., what kind of tasks should be carried out efficiently at which locations during an assignment.
Added value of real-time monitoring
Contrary to popular opinion, live monitoring is not always about tracking employees. Instead, it’s a case of keeping track of their work-related doings and whereabouts. Here’s another example: a worker is in danger and his portable gas detector indicates high gas concentration and alerts. The operator in charge can react immediately, send a rescue team and warn nearby workers to escape. In a conventional scenario, it would take much longer to locate workers at often hard-to-reach locations or even to register their alarms.
Live Monitoring by Dräger can indeed save lives, time and money. It collects available safety data points from workers, contractors and assets to build a life-saving system – even from hazardous and lone work areas. As a result, safety standards can be maintained during plant operations, even with an increasing shortage of skilled workers. In addition, safety gaps can be identified and eliminated during maintenance and repair work, even though many third-party contractors are on-site. Any event that requires attention comes into focus thanks to location- and time-independent access.
The collected data turns individual products into an intelligent solution containing historical and current data and continuously provides information for preventive measures and warning purposes.
Data security and access
Cybersecurity plays a crucial role in every phase of the development cycle of Dräger’s Smart Safety solutions. The firm’s primary solution, Gas Detection Connect, works as software-as-a-service using Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. The software is browser-based, with no local data storage. Operated by Dräger and hosted by Microsoft, only the customer owns the data.
As Live Monitoring by Dräger includes new and innovative applications, there are understandable fears of contact with the system, and the surveillance myth is omnipresent. Therefore, making a clear distinction between monitoring and surveillance is essential. Monitoring usually refers to work-related activities, which should be strictly confined to that matter. Surveillance practices, however, potentially come down to intrusive and pervasive tracking of all kinds of information, whether work-related or not. They also imply that workers may not be aware that they are being monitored.
The Live Monitoring solution includes flexible user rights management allowing to regulate who can view and work with the recorded data. Furthermore, location information is linked to the monitoring of working conditions only. Tailored user access also allows displaying roles and responsibilities within the plant or organisation. To ensure individual privacy, recorded data not required for documentation purposes will be deleted.
In summary, it is worth considering whether this type of monitoring technology could be the next step for your industry – to increase the safety of employees as well as processes.
Katharina Meese is with Dräger.