Visibility has always been a challenge for safety professionals. With so many workers, regulations, and different aspects of safety to cover in so little time, it’s hard to keep your finger on the pulse of your site.
Thankfully, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology has paved the way for connected gas detectors that give you the power to monitor your entire site in real time and even monitor worker safety at an individual level. This is known as connected safety.
This instant visibility into everything happening across your site has long been considered the ultimate goal. When you know about hazards, you can stay one step ahead of danger and cut down on injuries and fatalities—but you need to know how to do it.
Technology Alone Is Not Enough
Even though industrial workplaces are safer than they have ever been, there are still preventable injuries and deaths. In 2018 alone, more than 2.8 million workers suffered injuries or illnesses related to their work, and 5,250 workers died.
As important as visibility is, it’s not enough. It’s what you do with that visibility that counts.
Consider it this way: you’re driving along a country road at dusk. As you’re approaching a bend in the road, another driver approaches and flashes his lights. You aren’t sure what he’s trying to tell you, so you slow down a bit and proceed with caution. When you round the bend, you see a deer standing in the road just a few feet ahead of you. You steer away from the deer and apply your brakes. The other driver’s warning and your ability to see the deer allowed you to take the right action to prevent a collision.
You need to apply this same logic to gas detection: visibility only counts if you act on it. If a gas detector alerts workers to a hazard and nobody acts, then the alert is pointless. If multiple workers' personal gas detectors go into alarm in the same place on your site and nobody recognizes the pattern, the alarms aren’t serving a larger purpose. If a worker triggers a man-down alarm any nobody responds, then the alarm did not make the workplace any safer.
Each of these situations highlights the need for training on how to use connected safety equipment properly.
Where Problems Arise
There are three common ways that a connected gas detection program can fail:
- Misunderstanding Alerts: Gas monitors have alerts and alarms that vibrate, flash, and make noise to indicate different needs. If a worker doesn’t know the difference between an actual alarm and a beep that indicates a calibration or bump test is required, accidents are much more likely.
- Disregarding Alerts: Operators who believe they know more than their instrument can also pose a hazard. Someone who has been working at the plant for years might grow accustomed to ignoring the alarms or even think “that’s not a dangerous level yet.” This is also much more likely to result in an incident. Proper training can remind these workers that experience is not a substitute for safety equipment.
- Not Acting on Alerts: For a connected safety solution to help you proactively address problems before they become disasters, you must use the reports and software properly. Paying attention to the data you collect can help you recognize patterns in alarms or in employee behavior. However, an untrained or inattentive manager can easily miss those same warning signs.
Connected Safety Requires Proper Training
With years of training experience, it’s easy to spot the safety teams that do not take training seriously. Safety teams that take the time to train their workers, show a genuine effort, and have a desire to be trained properly are much more likely to reduce or prevent worker injuries on the job.
If you view training as another box to check, your workers will treat it the same. And when their training is put to the test in an emergency, the result won’t be good.
If you work in a field where gas hazards are possible, your teams must have training on general gas detection. Beyond that, be sure your teams receive confined space training and you understand how to use safety data proactively to prevent injuries.
Once you and your team are trained, you can take full advantage of a connected safety solution and truly improve safety throughout your site.
Regular Training Is Necessary
You probably remember things you learned in high school, but would you pass a test on any of the subjects today? No matter how good the training, memories fade over the years. And unlike high school, forgetting your safety training carries a cost: in 2017, U.S. companies collectively incurred $161 billion in worker injury-related expenditures.
In a perfect world, workers would receive initial training for their gas detection equipment and then take a refresher course each year after. However, if your workers are encountering problems they weren’t before or aren’t using gas detectors properly, it’s time for a refresher—no matter how long it has been since the last training
Luckily, it’s easy to access training to stay up-to-date. With everything from custom courses tailored to your team to free, online videos, there’s always a way to quickly and easily train your workers.
After all, new and improved technologies will continue to roll out and your gas detectors may include new features over time.
As important as it is to have a connected safety solution these days, the only way to use its potential to reduce risk is to ensure everyone is trained accordingly.