Design and engineering

How can a wearable save lives?

16 of November of 2016

Working in a safe environment is a priority for all companies. Moreover, improving workplace safety for staff also results in increased efficiency of services rendered in the human environment, which is good for citizens. It is not surprising, therefore, that workplace safety is the focus of much research and many technological developments, such as the Smart Services Safety Intelligent System project developed by engineering company Thaumat. This is a solution based on wearable technology, which warns the staff member when he/she enters a potentially dangerous area, thus preventing accidents at work.

For designing this solution, reference was initially made to the Health and Safety Manual for Street Cleaning and Solid Urban Waste Collection Services prepared by FREMAP in the framework of the Spanish Social Security’s General Plan for Preventive Action (Ministry for Work and Social Security). This document allowed identification of services with a high risk potential for worker safety, where use of technology within the service provision could improve workplace safety for staff and optimise efficiency of the services provided.

After studying the above, Thaumat noted that many of the risks listed in the manual were linked to non-observance of relevant safety distances when carrying out urban services.

This project by Thaumat has been the winner of the Urban Solutions Programme organised by Ferrovial Services and ICEX, and the award will be presented at the Smart City Expo World Congress – to be held in Barcelona from 15 to 17 November – at the session organised by ICEX under the title Possibilities of Collaboration in Smart City Projects.

In order to better understand the project and what it can offer in terms of workplace safety, Sanchoyerto Martínez of Thaumat, explains the operation and application of this wearable technology within an urban services contract.

Aitor Sanchoyerto explains the Smart Services Safety Intelligent System

“Urban services are not provided in factories or enclosed areas, but on the city streets (pavements, streets or gardens), and there is therefore daily interaction with city residents.”

Urban services are carried out within the city, and they must therefore be provided without interfering in the daily activities of the people living and working in the city in question. Traditionally, services requiring vehicles and machinery were carried out at night, in order to reduce any possible interferences. But given the costs associated with this option, night services have now been practically eliminated, so that everything is done during the day. Which means that normal city risks must be added to those inherent to the job itself. Using the innovative solution proposed, daytime visibility of service providers will increase by clearly establishing safety work perimeters for each particular job.

How can a virtual barrier save lives?

This solution, Smart Services Safety Intelligent System, is an electronic work safety system which creates a virtual electromagnetic barrier around the person wearing it.

What is the Smart Services Safety Intelligent System, and what is it made of?

This safe environment is created through the use of innovative UWB (ultra wide band) technology, which informs the wearer, through an acoustic and luminous alarm and vibration, of the presence of another worker equipped with the same technology within a specific safety radius. We have presented the device on a high visibility vest to facilitate scalability, but it can be applied with the same effect on any certified PPE high visibility item of clothing currently available on the market. PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, and certification means that such PPE items comply with the relevant standards and regulations and can therefore be put on the market.

The basic device is comprised by:

  • An ultra light watertight casing, containing the actual electronic device, which guarantees that the system can be used under any working conditions.
  • Visual display which alerts the wearer or other workers nearby, through an acoustic and luminous signal and vibration, to potential risk due to not observing the required safety distance.
  • Textile solar panels on front and back of vest or high visibility jacket, to self-power the device.

This system can be complemented with:

  • A programmable textile LCD panel, connected electronically, to afford greater visibility to workers when carrying out services on the road. Depending on the services being provided, different luminous signs or icons can be selected to alert as to the presence of workers.

This high visibility item of clothing, which has traditionally been used as a PPE by city services providers, is fitted with the solution developed by Thaumat, which draws on its know-how relating to radio communication technologies, indoor/outdoor locating services, lighting and solar panels, and combined within low-consumption hardware designed and developed by Thaumat, to give a smart item of clothing.

How does this safety vest work?

This PPE can interact with other high visibility clothing items without the need for input from the wearer, being a totally self-powered device fed by solar panels, meaning that the battery will charge under adequate light conditions. The hardware can be easily programmed and constantly monitors all events occurring for subsequent analysis.

The device can be used in tunnels, underground parking lots, within buildings, industrial buildings or airports, and allows accurate location of maintenance staff for preventive purposes and to ensure that a minimum safety radius around the worker is always observed. This solution will increase the safety of workers when providing daily street cleaning, waste collection and gardening services, avoiding possible collisions by service vehicles, or injuries from manually operated machines (brushcutters, profilers, chainsaws, etc.) used in gardening services.

The precision afforded by this technology, if properly handled, is not achievable with other technologies such as Bluetooth, WIFI, GPS, TAGS RFID or ZIGBEE, and makes this safety vest suitable for use in any activity or service.

This device marks a technological milestone in the prevention of workplace risks, and is a novel and innovative project in line with the new industrial revolution – the so-called Industry 4.0 –, which strives to transform the industry’s production and logistics model through operational excellence.

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