3 things to keep in mind for smart PPE workplace safety

Wearable technology may increase operational efficiency – but it can also increase risk. Read how to protect employees with smart PPE workplace safety.

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by Elaine Ye

We’re surrounded by a world of wearable technologies. Smartwatches keep track of our daily activities and easily pinpoint our current location from our wrists. Reality glasses bring the experience of faraway worlds right in front of our eyes. As this kind of technology becomes more prevalent in our personal lives, we see it more and more prominently on the job as well.

In industrial operations, certain augmented reality devices drive efficiency through deeper insights and long-distance collaboration. And drones provide a safe alternative to human presence when site access is inadvisable. However, high-tech can also mean high(er) risk.

Are businesses ready for the reality behind this technology and what it means for worker safety? Beyond strategic considerations, companies will need to incorporate many safety aspects into their high-tech implementation. Below we outline these important elements to consider in order to maintain smart PPE workplace safety in your business.

3 things to consider for smart PPE workplace safety.

Wearables must be safe for workers to wear. If your organization has implemented AR or smart technology into your facilities, or is exploring the idea, make sure that you account for all aspects of smart PPE workplace safety. This means ensuring that wearables don’t introduce new hazards into the work environment, paying attention to:

  1. Ergonomics & potential obstruction:
    How wearables fit employees is crucial to smart PPE workplace safety. All wearables should correctly fit for workers to use and must not constitute obstructions to the users during operation. For example, AR glasses shouldn’t obstruct users’ visibility, and other wearable devices shouldn’t limit their ability to move around.
    Additionally, the smart wearable PPE must not impose any safety risks or raise potential ergonomic issues. For instance, these devices can sometimes create physical obstacles that keep workers from performing work according to safety protocols or can force them into incorrect and unsafe postures.
  2. Composition materials & substances:
    Moreover, employers must be careful when choosing smart PPE for its employees. Certain devices may contain or potentially release harmful substances, even during proper use – such as simple contact with skin.
    For example, electronic devices, such as AR helmets, may contain non-ionizing radioactive components. These components are strictly regulated and could cause harm if improperly employed. Businesses must ensure that they’re aware of and follow the devices’ health and safety requirements.
  3. User awareness:
    Another important aspect to consider for smart PPE workplace safety is that workers remain cognizant of the devices they’re wearing. Due to this technology’s increasingly favorable design for comfort and light weight, users can forget that they have it on, especially after hours of operation. When this occurs, workers can unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way.
    For instance, when worn with an encapsulating suit, smart glasses could restrict the sight of a worker who is entering a confined space or handling hazardous materials. As part of their smart PPE workplace safety protocol, employers may need to include effective administrative control. This involves ensuring that workers follow proper procedures to use, remove, or switch PPE while entering different working environments or commencing different jobs.

Enhancing smart PPE workplace safety: Augmented reality meets increased awareness.

As we move forward with technological developments, organizations will need to ensure innovation doesn’t introduce new hazards. Businesses should be mindful of the potential negative impact these technological changes present to workers’ safety and operations.

To ensure smart PPE workplace safety, these companies should (re-)assess the risks for jobs affected by this technology and develop new or additional administrative controls accordingly.

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