Measuring brainwaves can give an early indication of fatigue, and recommend a break to avoid accidents when driving or operating machinery. Electroencephalography (EEG) machines used to fill a room, and involve a head full of electrical implants. Now there are EEG monitoring devices such as Life, from SmartCap small enough to fit inside a hard hat, or even a baseball hat.
In Australia, where heat stroke can be a problem when working outside, Laing O'Rourke are trialling hats that monitor heart rate and body temperature to provide an early indication that it’s time to head for the air-conditioning.
Heads-up displays are increasingly being used in combination with augmented reality (AR) or with "see what I see" systems (SWIS). AR presents information about a system or task steps, superimposed over what you see in the real world, whilst SWIS allows a technician to share a problem with an expert anywhere in the world and receive support directly whilst on the job. Goggles can also present tutorial videos to support safety-critical tasks. Our blog post on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) demonstratesthe potential benefits that real-time visuals can have to PPE management.
Musicians know that the best hearing protection is not a pair of disposable foam ear plugs. Moulded ear plugs which also act as earphones ensure that they can hear what they want to hear, but control the noise coming from the drummer. A Canadian company is taking this a step further, using an in-ear microphone to monitor noise exposure in industrial settings. Future developments might look at other biometrics, including body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate from inside the ear.
4. Face and mouth
Face masks have the capacity to monitor air intake and out take, providing a possible way of warning when atmospheres become toxic, or a worker’s breathing becomes irregular. Developments in contact sports are worth watching for cross-over technology. A mouth guard that measures the force of a head-to-head collision between players has been developed, to help coaches decide when a player should be taken off the field for medical treatment for concussion.
Devices to measure air quality, noise and radiation have been worn on the chest for years, but improved technology has made these cheaper, smaller, more sustainable. Proximity warning systems are already widely available, with tags worn in jackets that can be detected in vehicles to warn a driver that there are people nearby. High vis has had a makeover, and is now available with built-in lighting, powered by a rechargeable battery. In the future such systems could be self-adjusting – determining the type of visibility needed according to ambient lighting.
A concern common to almost every workplace is musculoskeletal pains and injuries, whether from sitting still for too long, or from manual handling tasks. Simply telling people to lift carefully or to take breaks from sitting at a computer is not effective, so now there are ways of monitoring movement using accelerometers, gyroscopes and muscle activity sensors to give users feedback about their own behaviours, or to relay the data to someone who can provide advice or consider how tasks might be redesigned, based on the information.
Haptic technology can simulate what it feels like to hold, touch, lift or manipulate something. Surgeons can already make use of haptic gloves, so that combined with video or virtual reality, they can practice delicate operations without putting a patient at risk. The same idea could be used for technicians to practice complicated maintenance operations, without the need for expensive physical simulations.
Watches are now available which do more than count steps. By comparing location with a database of PPE needs, and then checking id tags in items of PPE, they can be used to confirm that all the appropriate PPE is being worn, and remind the wearer of any missed items. Other watches are linked to devices on tools measuring vibration, or to other sensors measuring noise, to keep an exposure record for each shift.
As with the torso, illuminated trousers not only help a worker to be seen, but can help to prevent stumbling on obstacles in the dark, particularly where it is difficult to carry a torch. But high-tech trousers can go beyond this. Although not yet available, there is talk of developing trousers which can monitor noise, heat and knee impact.
We couldn’t find any clever products for the feet, so how about some blue-sky thinking? What about footwear that can assess the slipperiness of a surface and send a report to facilities if a floor needs to be cleaned? Or in earthquake zones, footwear that can detect seismic tremors in the ground for early warning of quakes?
If keeping track of your equipment is a source of frustration, Effective Softwares PPE module is an intuitive traffic light system coupled with a powerful notification platform which ensures you are informed when equipment needs to be replaced or re-issued.
For more information as to how Effective Software can help you to organise and streamline any of your organisations health and safety processes, why not Contact one of our super friendly product specialists or request a demo.
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