Rising temps on the worksite: Hot weather and COVID could be a recipe for disaster

Rising temps on the worksite: Hot weather and COVID could be a recipe for disaster

by Heidi Lehmann and Skip Orvis

Understanding intrinsic safety certification for Smart PPE use in certain applications, such as oil and gas and mining.

The oil and gas industry is inherently risky, especially when it comes to explosions. Therefore, it is critical that oil and gas worker products be “Intrinsically Safe (IS).” When a device is certified with the IS designation, its electrical and thermal energy levels are too low to ignite hazardous atmospheric mixtures, uniquely qualifying these products for use in dangerous environments such as oil and gas platforms. The process for obtaining intrinsic safety certification is rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive – and rightfully so, since the end result is a product that lowers risk of explosion for workers in these hazardous locations. It’s important, then, that safety managers consider Smart PPE devices that are certified intrinsically safe. When workers are protected with IS-certified Smart PPE devices, especially those that offer continuous safety monitoring, they are given the highest level of job protection.

Because the oil and gas industry operates in inherently risky environments for workers, it’s critical for its Smart PPE products to be intrinsically safe.

Oil and gas workers operate in environments that already contain both fuel and oxygen, so all it takes is a single ignition source from a Smart PPE device to create an explosion. Platforms, refineries, and transportation all present explosion risks for workers – and while an open flame or welding activity are clear dangers, a single spark from a device battery or a hot device surface is enough to ignite fuel when oxygen is present. Because flammable gases are released from wells, trucks, equipment, and shale shakers, explosion risk is present all across the oil and gas production chain. If there is fuel in the air, an ignition source can spark an explosion – and since oxygen and fuel sources can’t be controlled on dangerous work sites, the ignition source must be controlled.

Worker devices, such as cell phones and Smart PPE, are a specific area of concern for ignition sources. Two things can act as an ignition source for explosion: a spark or pure heat. A spark is created by the rapid release of energy by a device’s components, mainly the battery, capacitors, and inductors. Each [CG1] of these elements has the potential for sparking because they both store and release energy. While the battery is the initial source of energy, over time it charges the capacitors and inductors and, if anything fails throughout this energy circuit, energy is released in the form of a spark.

Fully Protecting Workers with Smart PPE: Why Intrinsic Safety MattersIt’s also possible for a device to release enough pure energy to start a fire. This phenomenon of spontaneous combustion is caused by spontaneous heating, which occurs when the oxidation of an element over time results in an extremely hot bulk temperature, unassisted by any external source. A common depiction of this phenomenon is a sudden fire combusting in a pile of oily rags – the oxidation of the hydrocarbon present in the cloth constitutes a serious fire risk. This same combustion can occur when a device’s components store enough energy to spontaneously heat very quickly in a runaway reaction, resulting in enough released energy to ignite a fire when fuel and oxygen are present. This is especially dangerous in a loaded environment like an oil platform or refinery, where fuel and oxygen are present in the atmosphere at very high levels.

Smart PPE, such as safety monitoring devices, must be certified as intrinsically safe for use in the oil and gas industry.

This designation is achieved through Intrinsic Safety Certification, a highly involved, rigorous process that measures the energy risk in the device according to each component. Every storage component – battery, capacitor, inductor – must be analyzed individually and together, since each one stores and releases energy within the circuit.

IS certification also involves testing the device and its components through the intentional insertion of failures into the system to determine how well it can withstand those failures. And IS certification calls for testing in abnormal cases, such as the device being dropped into a substance or being crushed by a heavy object. Product developers must ensure the device will maintain control of its internal energy, not get too hot or cause a spark, no matter the conditions.

Products certified as intrinsically safe follow rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming certification guidelines.

Intrinsic Safety testing and certification are highly specialized, especially when compared to a normal FCC compliance test for a cell phone. While there are hundreds of labs for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) testing, there are just a handful of intrinsic safety labs that can test and certify products, including Underwriters Laboratories, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and Intertek Group. For most of the world, the standards of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are followed for this certification.

These testing and certification labs must be IS certified as well. Tests are dangerous; for a normal battery test, product designers can rely on inherent protective measures to prevent catastrophic failures within a battery module; however, with IS testing, all internal safety items inside a battery must be disabled and only then is the battery tested to make sure it cannot cause ignition, regardless of the nature of the fault.

IS certification is done in parallel with product development, marking another difference between IS and regular FCC compliance. While it’s not terribly difficult to pass an FCC certification for most electronic devices after they are built, that same build-then-test process won’t work for an IS-certified Smart PPE device. Developers must think about the end product’s individual components and how they might contribute to an explosion – both individually and collectively – while the product is in development, not after it’s finished. It’s not enough to design a product and then conduct IS testing with the assumption that it will pass the tests; it must be done concurrently to ensure the product will meet the exacting IS guidelines.

In fact, the best industrial Smart PPE developers consider the Intrinsic Safety of the final product first, and then design the product from the ground up. If the end result is not considered from the beginning, the entire product will likely fail certification.

Smart PPE that is IS-certified can fully protect individual workers – from both physiological risk and ignition source risk.

When Smart PPE devices such as safety monitors are built from the ground up and IS-certified, they offer double protection to workers at inherently risky work locations. These devices, which track physiological indicators such as body temperature and heart rate, alert workers and management to potentially deadly heat-related injuries, making them critical for oil and gas workers in hot, dangerous environments such as platforms, refineries, and downstream transportation channels. And when IS certification is built in, Smart PPE safety monitoring devices provide workers with equally critical protection against ignition source risk.

Beyond the obvious safety protection of IS-certified Smart PPE devices in oil and gas locations, these devices also streamline safety monitoring, making it easier to remotely monitor workers in risky environments. Since workers often must pass through massive doors or air locks to enter or work in dangerous areas, if something happens inside the risky area, it’s not as easy as looking across a factory floor to see if the worker is okay. Managers in oil and gas locations must don PPE to enter dangerous spaces, which alone can take 15-20 minutes. Safety monitoring also minimizes the number of people in the space, reducing human error when people enter and exit dangerous areas with non-IS Smart PPE devices.

Using one IS-certified Smart PPE safety monitoring system across a workforce also streamlines the purchasing decision and reduces the number of products a worker might need to manage. Rather than monitoring heart rate with a fitness device in one location and heat stress with an IS-certified device in another location, one IS-certified Smart PPE device can accomplish both goals for all workers, in all locations. This strategy reduces the number of Smart PPE devices any one worker needs to wear and keep track of. Workers can thus stay physiologically safe while staying intrinsically safe in all environments – with one Smart PPE device.

When protecting workers, it’s key to keep all aspects of their safety in mind. When selecting Smart PPE to monitor physiological indicators for heat stress, safety managers should prioritize products that are IS-certified, because of the inherent heat and ignition source risk at oil and gas work sites – from the upstream platform to the downstream pipeline. And Smart PPE that is designed from the ground up and IS-certified can protect workers from both the risk of explosion and the risk of injury from heat stress. In order to fully protect workers, safety managers should prioritize Intrinsic Safety certification when purchasing Smart PPE safety monitoring devices.

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Rising temps on the worksite: Hot weather and COVID could be a recipe for disaster

Rising temps on the worksite: Hot weather and COVID could be a recipe for disaster

Featured at Industrial Safety & Hygiene News
Read the full article, “Rising temps on the worksite: Hot weather and COVID could be a recipe for disaster” here.

As if 2020 couldn’t get any more stressful, experts predict it will be the hottest year on record for atmospheric temperatures. The heat comes at a time when managing productivity and safety to maximize revenue for struggling industries is paramount. Heat is an added factor that must be considered as businesses navigate how to effectively recover after COVID. Employers must take proper precautions to mitigate their heat risk as they move forward with projects this summer.

Watch for signs

First, it’s important that outdoor workers who have been quarantined to stop the spread of COVID, or because they were ill or furloughed, to be screened before returning to work, as body temperature is a key indicator of the virus. After they start work, however, it is equally important to watch for signs and symptoms of other temperature-related setbacks – specifically injuries and illnesses caused by hot weather.

With shelter-in-place orders across much of the globe, many workers were likely spending their time away from work in temperature-controlled homes instead of working outside, as they typically would during the day. This is problematic because research shows that those accustomed to air-conditioning are less tolerant of the heat when they venture out into it.

This is a recipe for disaster that will likely lead to an increase in the number of heat-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses in 2020. This may bring these safety statistics to record levels – significantly adding to the numbers of 783 workers killed and 69,374 critically injured by heat on the job. The added impact from rising air temps and workers coming off COVID quarantine will likely boost heat stress incidents that were already on the rise, as the number of worker days spent in dangerous heat conditions is estimated to almost triple by 2050 for construction workers alone.

High cost

According to the CDC, the onset of heatstroke can increase a worker’s body temperature to 106 degrees Fahrenheit within just 10-15 minutes. In fact, the U.S. military recently identified heat exposure as a significant, growing threat – with an increase of almost 60 percent in exertional heat stroke and heat exhaustion cases since 2008. High heat can also increase the risk of occupational injuries by as much as nine percent, as shown by a recent ISGlobal study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The personal impacts of heat include increased mental demand, and reduced dexterity and endurance on the job. Long-term impacts of consistently working in the heat can include chronic kidney disease and organ damage.

Seventeen of the 18 hottest years on record have taken place since 2001, and an average of 2.2 million workers (in the ag and construction industries alone) work in extreme heat during summer’s peak. The National Weather Service reports that heat was by far the leading cause of weather fatalities over the past 30 years. Heat stress affects all workers. Workers may appear healthy and, once heat injuries are detected by the naked eye, it’s actually too late. Since most workers don’t want to raise any flags about their own health, they often wait too long to take a break – and at that point, typical on-site treatments such as rehydrating and escaping the sun aren’t enough. Often, by the time a worker takes him or herself out of the heat, the damage is done.

In addition to worker health and safety, heat causes company impacts such as higher insurance costs, lost productivity, and reputational and legal risks if workers are not accommodated to protect their health and wellness. Employers in the U.S. spend $220 billion annually on injury and illness related to excessive heat. Only three states – California, Minnesota, and Washington – currently have OSHA heat standards in place, and these aren’t even the hottest states in the U.S. With the majority of states lacking OSHA heat stress standards, workers are laboring in sub-optimal conditions, with little protection or training. This exposure results in more injuries and hospitalizations, fewer worker days, and increased Worker Compensation costs.

In fact, research shows that, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit increase in outdoor temperature, there is a 393% increase in hospitalizations for heat exposure, and one study calculated the healthcare costs of a single California heat event at $179 million. Moreover, these impacts are fully preventable, since the risk of injuries and illnesses can be easily monitored by measuring each individual’s physiological responses to the heat.

Smart PPE

To combat the risk, and associated costs, companies now spend $67 billion annually in smart PPE and protective equipment. The latest heat safety products include technology that provides continuous, private monitoring of individual workers’ physiological responses. Before this type of smart PPE, companies simply looked at accidents after the fact, with little ability to predict elevated risk for individual workers.

Now, new technology enables safety managers to both predict and prevent near-misses. Devices are often smaller than a cell phone and easy to wear, with no discomfort to the user. Users can review an individual’s leading biometric data such as heart rate, core body temperature, and sweat loss. And dashboards for each worksite team keeps management informed, while maintaining individual worker privacy.

Unlike temperature guns (now used to admit workers back on the site after scanning for virus-related body temperatures) which create an immediate lack of privacy, continuous individualized monitoring through smart PPE is covert. If an indicator warrants intervention, management can simply speak with the worker, without alerting others to the concern. Rather than reviewing heat-related injuries and illnesses after the fact, continuous monitoring allows users to predict and prevent heat incidents – keeping workers safer and fit for duty, while increasing output and lowering health care expenses.

In the not-so-distant future, heat monitoring through smart PPE may eliminate the need for temperature guns, as a worker may be able to use a wearable device prior to clocking in, so that body heat caused by both viruses and air temperatures can be detected and distinguished before the work even begins. This would allow workers who might be coming down with an illness to stay home from work and avoid spreading the disease to the rest of the workforce.


Heat-related risks, and thus the costs, for both workers and their employers, keep mounting. That’s the bad news. The good news is, through heat prevention methods like acclimatization and heat interventions such as breaks, hydration, shade/air-conditioning, and ice baths, risks can be addressed and proactively managed. And, as innovation continues in the smart PPE industry, individualized monitoring can be even more effective in reducing heat-related injuries and illnesses by providing real-time alerts when workers are unsafe and need to take a break.

For the growing problem of heat injuries and deaths, there are growing solutions. The key is to stay vigilant in understanding the conditions under which workers are being asked to perform, and being proactive in managing their risk, and therefore yours.




Smart PPE patch monitors and relays real-time stress indicators to protect workers against heat injuries and death 

May 7, 2020 (NEW YORK)Kenzen, the smart PPE innovator focused on physiological monitoring and the prevention of heat injury and death among workers, has launched a real-time worker heat monitoring system. The Cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) system includes a wearable device worn by workers on their arm which alerts both the worker and their supervisor when core body temperature is too high.  Real-time alerts allow for immediate intervention and worker safety from heat injuries.

The wearable, via its advanced sensor complement, monitors multiple physiological and environmental metrics, including heart rate, activity, skin and ambient temperatures. Together, these sensor data allow for the real-time prediction of core body temperature, providing alerts to workers and supervisors when temperatures approach unsafe levels.

Kenzen mobile rest alert for the worker

Kenzen’s multi-level alerts are sent to workers via device vibration, iOS or Android app notification, and to supervisors via web dashboard alert signaling that the worker should take a break and allow his/her temperature to return to safe levels.  Alerts are accompanied by actionable recommendations such as advising the worker to take a break, find shade, drink water, or remove any excess clothing and equipment to decrease body heat. A second “back to work” alert then indicates when the worker’s core body temperature has returned to a safe level.

Data captured by the system can be used to help companies identify heat risk and proactively manage outcomes by adapting worksites accordingly to improve worker safety while maximizing productivity. Modifications may include changes to work-rest schedules, where and when to add water and shade stations, the addition of air-conditioned rest areas and even recommendations for pre-staging ice-bath locations in case of extreme weather and working conditions. The data can also inform decisions around workplace expenditures such as certain equipment and clothing.

“The Kenzen system is all about prediction and prevention. Heat related injuries are 100% preventable but potentially deadly and difficult to detect until it’s too late,” said Heidi Lehmann, chief commercialization officer for Kenzen.

Kenzen dashboard

The Kenzen system has been piloted on worksites of large industrial conglomerates across the globe in domains such as construction, field services, power, oil and gas, and renewable energy.  In the future, open APIs will allow integration into large connected-worker platforms. Kenzen also expects to receive Intrinsic Safety (IS) certification for use of its system, a prerequisite for use in many oil and gas, mining and other enclosed environments later this year.  Once approved the system would be among the first smart PPE products to receive Zone 0 IS certification, which authorizes safe operation of electrical equipment in hazardous areas where any thermal or electrical malfunction is catastrophic.

Kenzen is sold as a subscription on a per-worker, per-month basis.

About Kenzen

Founded in 2014, Kenzen is the premier physiological monitoring platform to keep work forces safe from heat, fatigue and over exertion on the job. For more information about heat stress and how to integrate the system into your safety plan, visit Kenzen.com.