Safety Technology: Identifying and Preventing Worker Heat-Related Injuries

Safety Technology: Identifying and Preventing Worker Heat-Related Injuries

Click here for the full article from Construction Executive

By Claude Robotham | Thursday, February 25, 2021

 

The past year has been extremely challenging worldwide, especially for workforces who sacrificed their health and safety to serve others. Technology proved to play a critical role in overcoming many of the world’s challenges during the pandemic. From remote workers utilizing web-based video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings to teachers conducting lessons in virtual classrooms, it is clear that remote-based solutions will impact lives for many years to come.

As companies adjust to the new way of doing business, they are looking for technology that allows them to engage employees and gather insights to improve processes and maintain their remote workforces’ productivity. Industrial companies are taking this a step further to identify technology that can monitor workers to help protect workers from illnesses and injuries. Technology that can monitor worker’s physiological information can provide valuable insights to prevent workplace injuries.

 

INCREASED RISK: OUTDOOR WORKFORCES

Workers in many industries across the world, including construction, are exposed to dangerously hot working conditions. Heat-related injuries such as exertional heat stroke, dehydration and even death, are impacting global workforces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently noted that millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat stress in their workplace.1 While there are some guidelines related to heat stress exposure upper limits, research has shown that one size does not fit all when it comes to heat stress management.2 Existing guidelines do not consider individualized factors such as age, weight, sex, fitness, medications, and previous medical conditions. In addition, Personal Protective Equipment clothing designed to keep industrial workers safe can increase the danger of heat-related illnesses in hot, humid and even cool work environments.

As the climate changes worldwide, workers who work outside are at higher risk for heat-related injuries. Researchers analyzing the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries identified 285 construction worker deaths directly related to heat from 1992 to 2016. And 78% of those deaths occurred during the hot summer months between June and August.3  As global warming and temperatures rise across the globe, the risk of heat-related deaths is also increasing. Technology that can monitor and predict when workers are at risk can save lives.

 

WORKER SAFETY: LEVERAGING DATA FROM WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

Technology and devices that incorporate miniature sensors into wearables such as watches, rings, chest straps and armbands can monitor heart rate, temperature and respiration. This information is usually provided to the user to monitor their vital signs during activities, rest and even sleep. However, by adding additional sensors to monitor environmental conditions like humidity and temperature and information like age, sex, height and weight, these devices can become even smarter.

Advanced algorithms can now be used to analyze each data point to provide an individualized real-time snapshot of not only vital signs but the potential risk for many other health-related illnesses. For example, after the age of 35, the body’s ability to dissipate heat through sweating decreases. As a result, older individuals have higher core body temperatures than younger adults. Algorithms can consider the age difference between individual workers in the same environmental conditions and tailor work and rest recommendations accordingly to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Diseases are another example where previous conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis and cardiovascular disease can impair an individual’s thermoregulation. These individuals may have an elevated core body temperature when working at the same intensity as someone without these ailments. Algorithms can account for the individual factors to better monitor each worker and prevent potential injuries.

 

TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS

Fortunately, many device companies are leveraging their technology and experience to develop solutions to help protect at-risk workers. Wearable, cloud-connected devices that are comfortable for workers can provide real-time safety alerts by monitoring each worker.

One example is continuous monitoring systems that track core body temperature, heart rate and exertion levels. This system uses machine learning and advanced algorithms to analyze millions of physiological data points and individualized user information to provide actionable alerts to prevent heat-related injuries and illnesses. A mobile application alerts the individual worker to privately self-monitor their health from their phone. A web dashboard provides safety managers with a remote worksite view of their team to help monitor and improve safety while reducing risk and increasing team productivity.

Environmental Health and Safety managers use technology to gather insight into the unique safety needs of teams at specific work sites. Machine learning algorithms can identify, adapt and update EHS managers with site-specific changes not easily observed on a day-to-day basis. Recently, Garney Construction, one of the largest water and wastewater construction contractors, utilized these insights to help managers develop new safety processes tailored to Garney’s worksites spread all across the U.S.

Furthermore, researchers have indicated that work capacity and productivity decrease as a result of heat stress.4  Advanced analytics dashboards can provide detailed anonymized information to the workforce. These dashboards break down each data point into easy-to-understand actionable recommendations to guide managers in keeping workers safe while optimizing their productivity.

 

PROTECTING WORKERS: DATA PRIVACY

As with any monitoring technology, data privacy is critical. Workers, managers and safety personal should only see data needed to protect and prevent worksite injuries and illnesses.

Technology cannot address all workforce dangers, but it can be a powerful tool in addition to worksite training, hazard awareness and oversight. While safety regulations catch up with the constant change and risks faced by global workforces, technology will continue to improve and do its part to help protect workers.

 

1. https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure

2. Notley, SR, Flouris, AD, Kenny, GP. Occupational heat stress management: Does one size fit all? Am J Ind Med. 2019; 62: 1017– 1023. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22961

3. Dong, XS, West, GH, Holloway‐Beth, A, Wang, X, Sokas, RK. Heat‐related deaths among construction workers in the United States. Am J Ind Med. 2019; 62: 1047‐ 1057. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23024

4. Kjellstrom, Tord et al. “Workplace heat stress, health and productivity – an increasing challenge for low and middle-income countries during climate change.” Global health action vol. 2 10.3402/gha.v2i0.2047. 11 Nov. 2009, doi:10.3402/gha.v2i0.2047

Axelson, O. (1974). Influence of heat exposure on productivity. Work, Environment, Health, 11(2), 94-99. Retrieved January 24, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44376378

 

KCRise closes $41M Fund II, plans to invest in 20 high-growth tech companies

KCRise closes $41M Fund II, plans to invest in 20 high-growth tech companies

From Startland News

A newly closed, oversubscribed $41 million KCRise Fund II is poised to accelerate regional growth with an influx of talent and investment dollars for 20 high-growth technology companies benefitting Greater Kansas City, said Darcy Howe.

And the work has already begun, the fund’s founder and managing director added.

Before today’s closing announcement, Fund II had invested in 8 of the 20 companies targeted, all of which are located directly in the region or strategically accretive to the region, Howe said. Half of KCRise Fund II companies to date are led by female or diverse founders.

John Bertrand, Daupler

John Bertrand, Daupler

Riddhiman Das, TripleBlind

Riddhiman Das, TripleBlind

The eight KCRise Fund II investments include backstitchBungiiCariloopDauplerDegree InsuranceKenzenSuper Dispatch and TripleBlind.

Click here to read more about Daupler and TripleBlind, two of Startland News’ 10 Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2021.

“2020 brought talented former Kansas Citians back to the region, away from their higher-cost, coastal environments,” Howe said, referencing pandemic-era workplace shifts that brought unexpected benefits. “KC-based technology companies also learned that a distributed workforce can be highly productive. These two factors have increased the quality of talent joining our portfolio companies and accelerated traction.”

Investors include 17 corporations and universities headquartered in the Kansas City region, along with numerous families and family offices, many with next generation family members leading engagement and learning the discipline it takes to be a venture investor, according to Howe.

Click here to read why Blue KC joined the group of investors backing KCRise Fund II.

Today’s announcement follows the launch of the $19 million KCRise Fund I three years ago, Howe said, which helped bridge the high-growth technology funding gap in the KC region.

“Our goals for Fund II remain the same as in Fund I: educate and grow the number of venture investors who will invest in this region, connect large businesses seeking innovation with the innovative companies being built in their own backyards, and deliver financial results which will encourage doing it all over again,” Howe said.

“Additionally, Fund II has attracted investors outside of the region who believe our strategic regional thesis is a competitive advantage in building a venture pipeline and working toe-to-toe with founders and their teams.”

BacklotCars co-founders: Josh Parsons, Fabricio Solanes, Justin Davis, and Ryan Davis

BacklotCars co-founders: Josh Parsons, Fabricio Solanes, Justin Davis, and Ryan Davis

The results of Fund I have exceeded expectations since fundraising first kicked off in September 2016 and closed a year later, said Ed Frindt, partner at KCRise Fund.

“The growth of our firm is a testament to the collaborative culture of Kansas City,” he said. “Our investors recognized the multiplier effect of how organized risk capital, hands-on mentoring, and opening of their personal networks could catalyze growth for KC’s entrepreneurs. Our hyper-local model brings a competitive advantage not only to our founders but to our financial returns.”

Out of KCRise Fund I’s 20 portfolio companies, five have exited, including BacklotCarsPayIt and Zego. Those five exits returned nearly 100 percent of investor capital called, with 15 investments still remaining, according to the fund.

To date, Fund I companies — since KCRise Fund’s investment — have attracted $358 million in investor capital, 78 percent of which was from outside the region, Frindt said.

Click here to read more about BacklotCars’ $425 million exit to KAR Global in 2020.

KCRise Fund builds syndicates with institutional investors around the globe who are attracted to the capital efficient, revenue-focused innovators identified and supported by the fund.

Jeff Jones, H&R Block

Jeff Jones, H&R Block

“Our partnership with KCRise Fund II fits perfectly with our transformation agenda, recognizing how critical it is to connect with and be inspired by the world outside of H&R Block,” said Jeff Jones, CEO and president of H&R Block, a KCRise Fund corporate investor. “Early-stage companies need market validation, counsel and customers, and we’re a good testing ground for one another. There is no question to me that investing in our own backyard improves our community and our economy.”

Click here for the full article from Startland News

Worker wearables startup Kenzen earns $1M capital injection from Fenaroli-led Overland Park investor

Worker wearables startup Kenzen earns $1M capital injection from Fenaroli-led Overland Park investor

From Startland News

Kansas City-worn Kenzen is rolling into 2021 with new funding and partnerships pushing the wearables startup into overdrive.

Heidi Lehmann, Kenzen

Heidi Lehmann, Kenzen

The company announced a $1 million injection of funding from Overland Park-based Examinetics — a portfolio company of New York-based Freedom 3 Capital — Wednesday.

“The Kenzen solution is gaining momentum. This alliance with Examinetics will broaden the team of safety experts who can work closely with clients to train teams and onboard employees to the technology before work heats up this summer,” explained Heidi Lehmann, co-founder and chief commercial officer of the smart personal protective equipment and Internet of Things company.

The injection brings Kenzen’s total backing to $10 million.

The company currently sits at No. 16 on the Kansas City Top VC-Backed Companies list — generated annually by Startland News’ independently-operated parent organization, Startland.

Beyond capital, Kenzen and Examinetics have agreed to a partnership in which the former will work to create introductions and partnerships for the startup, leveraging its network of existing clients, added Paul Fenaroli, Examinetics president and CEO.

Paul Fenaroli, Examinetics

Paul Fenaroli, Examinetics

“As a leader in the field, we have a responsibility to bring our clients new and emerging solutions that we believe advance their employee health and safety goals,” Fenaroli said. “With over 3,000 clients nationwide, we have the reach and access to health and safety executives in substantially every industrial sector.”

Kenzen headquartered much of its operations base in the metro upon its founding in 2016, setting its sights in part on accessible capital, Lehmann previously told Startland News.

Additionally Wednesday, Kenzen and North Kansas City-built Garney Construction announced a trial, which will put the company’s wearables to the test on 10 build sites nationwide.

The devices track and assess physiological indicators of each worker, including core body temperature, heart rate, and exertion level — potentially saving the lives of workers exposed to extreme weather, acting as a proactive prediction and prevention measure.

Kenzen safety tech

Kenzen safety tech

“We’re committed to continually evaluating new methods of protecting our employee-owners and incorporating the best solutions available,” said Ryan Smith, regional safety manager at Garney. “We’re looking to add more prevention approaches to our systems, which now include education and training, hydration, monitoring atmospheric and ambient heat, and cooling stations.”

While Kenzen works to collect sizable amounts of data, privacy and protection remain a driver for the company, Lehmann added.

“Garney is on the leading edge of bringing technology into the safety equation. Because Garney is owned by its employees, all were involved in the decision and all are interested in advancing their business through increased safety and productivity.”

Click here for the full article from Startland News