Special Topics in Safety Management

High-Tech Safety: The Internet of Things

Is your refrigerator connected to the Internet yet? What about your car, your thermostat, or your garage door opener? What about your workplace? Are your punch presses and dough mixers and forklifts connected to the cloud? And if they are, are you using it to make your workplace safer?

Here’s how the Internet of Things can help enhance safety in your workplace.

The Internet of Everything

More and more everyday machines are equipped with CPUs, software, and wireless connectivity that enable them to be remotely controlled, and to self-monitor for purposes that include inventory control, malfunction reporting, and maintenance scheduling.

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The safety-enhancing potential of this technology includes:

  • Maintenance scheduling. Maintenance is often performed on a schedule based on the calendar year, with unscheduled maintenance occurring when a problem arises. But a connected piece of equipment could report its actual usage, permitting facilities to optimize the maintenance schedule. Optimal maintenance means increased productivity—and it also means safer machines.
  • Trend spotting. A vigilant safety manager will spot many troubling trends—if more forklift accidents occur in a specific area of the facility, the safety manager will know. But Internet of Things technology will enable managers to fine-tune this capability, identifying not only when and where a specific type of incident is occurring, but also exactly what conditions of maintenance, lighting, temperature, speed, and staffing existed at the time. The information can be used to narrowly identify contributing factors. If multiple facilities are connected, the trends can be identified and dealt with across facilities as well.

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  • Information integration and management.When equipment and people are all part of a single information technology system, analytics can be designed to identify potential problems and prevent accidents. In one pilot study, multiple tower cranes were part of an integrated safety system that used sensor data and a wireless network to create and run an anticollision algorithm, ensuring site safety.

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