Smart Technology PPE Improving Worker Safety

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Smart PPE can collect data and warn the wearer of hazards.Managers across many fields seek safer equipment for workers in dangerous environments. Jobs in emergency management, firefighting, construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, and mining all require personal protective equipment (PPE).

Managers who make safety a priority continually seek the most efficient solutions to comply with and exceed the requirements of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations. Advances in smart technology are creating new ways to protect workers by enhancing PPE. Smart devices can respond to both the body of the worker and the environment to deliver crucial information to both the worker and, often, the supervisor. Personal protective equipment is now available in safety helmets, eyewear, safety gloves, safety shoes, and other workwear.

Smart tech segments in personal protective equipment companies are increasing rapidly. The year-over-year growth rate for 2019 was projected to be 15.41%, according to a report from technavio. Rapid growth means that companies offer more choices and new devices to protect workers. The same report predicts a compounded annual growth rate of more than 16% in smart tech personal protective gear and a $2.55 billion increase in the market, with about 36% of the market growth in North America.

An online emergency management degree such as the Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management program at Eastern Kentucky University, can help professionals stay abreast of new developments of smart technology PPE. The program customized tracks for occupational health and safety careers.

What are the Benefits of Smart PPE?

Smart PPE refers to wearable pieces of equipment, such as helmets, that connect to the internet or Bluetooth and deliver safety information to the wearer or others in the field. These wearables collect data, adjust to conditions, and warn of hazards.

Christine Lellis, writing for Perillon Software’s EHS Management blog, explains several ways that smart PPE is in use at job sites.

In addition to helmets:

  • Earmuffs and face masks can improve communication in loud or low-visibility environments.
  • Smart tech sensors can connect with cooling and heating elements and adjust according to body and external temperatures, offering critical help when the wearer is in a dangerous situation.
  • Smart tech lockout devices can prevent equipment-related injuries with a laser-enabled stop device.
  • Sensors embedded in clothing can monitor elements in the environment, including gas, chemicals, heat, sound, and impacts, and then the sensors can notify supervisors of these dangers.

Bluetooth allows smart PPE to gather data and connect to other devices in real time, often using software that integrates the information from various PPE wearables. 

Chips in Smart Tech Helmets Protect Workers

Smart PPE allows supervisors to track the location of their workers on large work sites in real time if the workers wear smart tech helmets that include GPS chips.

Nigel Day of Hazardex describes how smart helmets use meta sensors to evaluate information and protect wearers. Smart helmets detect impact, free falls, temperature, humidity, brightness, and more. Business owners can program the chips in smart helmets many ways to improve safety. They can insert GPS tracking systems to map workers’ location on large construction sites or at sparsely populated oil refineries. Helmets can also be programmed to warn wearers if they are close to hazards with an alarm. This location information can help prevent accidents. In addition to helmets, other wearable pieces of smart tech offer additional benefits.

Smart safety eyewear adds benefits beyond traditional safety glasses, especially on hazardous work sites. Data can be delivered inside the eyewear in a display in the corner of the lens so the wearer can monitor changing data. Smart tech safety glasses could also prevent people from entering a hazardous area if they are not wearing the glasses.

Smart Tech Gloves Boost Safety

Smart safety gloves are another way that technology can boost safety on the job site. Near-field communication (NFC) chips built into the gloves allow users to connect with information on their phone or tablet. The gloves are customized to communicate with machines. As infrastructure adapts over time, the data transmitted by NFC chips can also be changed.

NFC chips in gloves can allow users to scan data sheets and access information, such as the safety of chemicals and compounds. The chips can also guarantee that workers wear safety gloves, or the correct gloves, for handling hazards. Safety gloves can behave like swipe cards on products and may prevent wearers from entering dangerous areas or risking cross-contamination.

Chips in various pieces of protective gear can communicate with each other so that they prevent the wearer from entering dangerous areas without proper protection. Chips may also be embedded in the soles of safety shoes to add the ability to detect dangerous conditions such as slip hazards. Additional features might be the ability to notify wearers that they haven’t fastened their shoes properly. Smart workwear can also incorporate 3-D gesture detection technology so that messages can be communicated, allowing the operation of devices without physical contact in hazardous environments. 

About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management Program

Staying up-to-date on developments in occupational safety, emergency management, and disaster resilience is a crucial part of EKU’s online emergency management degree program.

Students enrolled in EKU’s online emergency management degree program can learn the essential components of safety, security, and emergency management. The program allows students to customize their experience through a Multidisciplinary Track or with concentrations in Corporate Security Operations, Occupational Safety, or Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience. The concentrations are also available as stand-alone graduate certificates, independent of a master’s degree. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission accredits EKU. For more information, contact Eastern Kentucky University now.

Recommended Reading

Production Vs. Safety in the Workplace

Preparing for and Responding to Energy Emergencies

Occupational Safety in the Age of Robotics


Global Smart Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Market 2019-2023


What is Smart PPE? The Future of Worker Safety EHS Management Blog

Smart PPE and Wearable Technology hazardex