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Digital and connected safety

27 February 2023

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS in digitalisation and connectivity have transformed the way we work, with the potential to make workplaces not only smarter but safer. David Head provides an insight.

Industry 4.0 and the ongoing automation of traditional industrial practices using smart technology has played a prominent role in the evolution of workplace safety in the past decade, and recent developments in digitalisation and connectivity are further transforming the way we work, with the potential to make workplaces not only smarter but safer.

Nearly half (49%) of all respondents in the Dräger Safety at Work research last year found the use of digital and connected safety technology reassuring, and 38% of those interviewed said that such technology has already improved outcomes and led to better safety. 

More broadly, the potential benefits are significant, and there have been some major advances in innovation over the past few years.

For example, sectors where gases present a risk (and this includes a very wide range of industries, not least manufacturing, oil and gas and utilities) are now able to use real-time monitoring of hazardous environments which link inter-connecting portable devices that communicate and respond to one another to safeguard personnel. 

Harnessing innovation, such systems can now be linked, transforming individual portable gas detectors into a connected smart safety system.

This offers a number of key benefits, including live monitoring; whereby key information is displayed in real time via an online user interface. This interface is available to anyone who has the appropriate permissions, meaning that workers on site, or managers in a central location, can pinpoint the position of their colleagues and the status of their gas safety at any given moment. If an alarm is activated by any individual device, colleagues and managers would be immediately alerted to the risk and be able to see the key information displayed on the management dashboard. Furthermore, emergency services can be granted access to the data which allows them to manage an emergency situation, if needed, and the data is also logged for later analysis.

On the subject of monitoring, it is worth repeating an observation made by thought leader, Keith Hole when commenting on the latest Dräger research into digitalisation and e-commerce in safety. He observed that the changing working practices post pandemic, which support remote working, means that the safety and supervision of staff is undertaken less often face-to-face and more through management information and performance indictors using connected devices. 

He believes that improvements in the way that data is collected and processed enables businesses to have a clearer understanding of the challenges their workforce faces on the ground and therefore managers can provide supervision remotely through the adoption of new technologies. This has the potential to make businesses more agile, enabling better risk-based decision making, and, most importantly, keeping everybody safe at work. Historically, this level of information has been reserved for the C-suite but with recent changes there are indications that this being shared more widely throughout a business, ensuring transparency around the data collected and enabling staff to have a greater ownership of their own safety information.

However, despite these indications of progress, there remains considerable scope for businesses to convince people that interacting digitally can improve safety: While the feeling overall is that the introduction of new technology is largely positive, the fact that just over a fifth (22%) of people expressed privacy concerns and the same number believe that there is an increased risk of cybercrime, must not be ignored.

David Head is head of safety marketing at Draeger Safety UK. For more information, visit www.draeger.com/en_uk/Safety