Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company or a privately owned business, companies share a common objective: Protecting their greatest assets. In doing so, they create profitability. There have been many advancements in AI, robotics and innovations that eliminate or drastically decrease manhours. However, the greatest assets companies have are their hands and feet. The people they employ dedicate their time, expertise and labor to keep the organization running like a well-oiled machine. These people are somebody’s spouses, parents, children, grandchildren – people who are important to them and whom they care about. They are dedicated human beings committed to increasing a company’s bottom line.
There are many oil and gas initiatives taking place along the U.S. Gulf Coast, onshore and offshore. That particular area of the country is known for its excessive heat in the summer months. Companies take measures to combat the heat and provide provisions to make it slightly more manageable. Cooling towels, pickle pops, fluorescent neck guards on hard hats and staying hydrated are just some of the measures being taken to combat the heat and keep employees safe.
Each year, thousands of workers are sickened by workplace heat exposure. On September 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor announced enhanced, expanded measures to protect workers from hazards of extreme heat, indoors and out. As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s interagency effort and commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience and environmental justice, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is initiating enhanced measures to better protect workers in hot environments and reduce the dangers of exposure to ambient heat.
According to the OSHA Nation News Release, OSHA area directors across the nation will institute the following:
Prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses and initiate an onsite investigation where possible.
Instruct compliance safety and health officers, during their travels to job sites, to conduct an intervention (providing the agency’s heat poster/wallet card, discuss the importance of easy access to cool water, cooling areas and acclimatization) or opening an inspection when they observe employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions.
Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.
This problem has not been on the forefront of everyone’s minds, but now that it has national and government recognition, it is in fact, a crisis that needs to be addressed. Lives are on the line. So, what if you could do more? What if there was an additional option out there to keep your employees safe and optimally performing?
There is. Kenzen has developed wearable safety technology that keeps workers safe by continuously monitoring key physiological indicators, such as heart rate, over-exertion and core body temperature. Health, safety and environment (HSE) managers are kept abreast of dangerous situations with real-time data that predicts and prevents heat related illness and injury.
Nora Levinson is the founder and CEO of Kansas City-based Kenzen, maker of wearable tech that tracks worker’s heat risk by continuously monitoring an individual’s physiological markers such as heat rate, sweat rate and exertion. She holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford and has experience in connected device development and manufacturing. Kenzen president and COO Heidi Lehmann is an experienced mobile platforms and media entrepreneur, combining a track record in connected devices, mobile platforms and distributed media, as well as five-plus years of experience in the industrial wearables market. She is also an advisor to start-ups and venture capital firms.
“We expect a surge in use of wearable safety devices, particularly given the new heat safety standards that President Biden has asked OSHA to draft,” says co-founder Lehmann. “There’s already great interest in the connected industrial worker method of maximizing safety and productivity for individuals and their employers. But employers need to look for products that have privacy filters for protecting personal data and algorithms that allow for the interpretation of mass amounts of data to make enterprise-wide safety decisions.”
The device is compact and waterproof, and records biometric data from a flat surface in a highly effective, unobtrusive way. It monitors core body temperature and heart rate with a multi-LED PPG sensor, and worker microclimate, sweat rate and activity levels with motion metrics. The continuous safety monitoring is both real-time and highly accurate. The detection is contextual to the worker’s physiology and their discrete environment. The data is hyper-personalized, with individual baselines and de-identified data at the management level. Managers can provide immediate support with data points translating to actionable insights, in real time. The machine learning predictive models deploy across workforce populations, giving managers tools to prevent future heat-related injury and illness. Customizable integrations and cloud APIs extract and expose data in usable client formats.
When a person gets heat stroke, the body becomes unable to control its temperature. Untreated, it can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. It occurs when people become dehydrated, or after exposure to hot and humid weather for prolonged periods while engaging in intense physical activity, like someone would on a job site. The damage it can cause to the body can worsen the longer treatment is delayed and even lead to death. In addition, once the body has been exposed to heat stroke once, victims are more susceptible to it when conditions occur in the future.
Prevention is key. The team at Kenzen recognizes the need for intervention. The preventative measures it has developed and implemented will keep this from ever happening, taking a proactive approach to protect the people essential to the operation of a successful company. It has developed a complete safety monitoring platform with integrated worker devices, mobile apps, team dashboards and enterprise software. The devices can be rented in different sized packages or purchased. The company has made it possible to ensure that all employees are fit for duty and protected from heat illness and injury. By creating an invaluable device that has the ability not only to save lives, but to equip the individual and management team with data, Kenzen is providing them with the vital knowledge they need to combat harmful conditions and safeguard their most valuable assets.
Perennially recognized as one of America’s safest builders, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is partnering with Kenzen to pilot wearable heat monitoring technology on multiple construction projects. Kenzen’s smart PPE devices monitor the heat status of workers in hot and humid conditions, helping predict and prevent heat stress and illness. Together, the organizations will gain valuable insight into how the technology can minimize the risk of heat illness and protect the broader construction workforce.
“Safety is the most important thing we do every day, and on many projects that includes heat awareness and heat illness prevention,” said McCarthy Vice President National Safety Pat Devero. “The Kenzen system is already helping us identify new ways to prevent heat illness, assist in validating our current practices and heat illness expectations, and is a great example of how embracing technology can improve our industry’s approach to health and safety.”
The Kenzen devices worn by workers contain sensors that monitor, in real-time, an individual’s physiological markers that trigger heat injury risks. This includes a sweat rate monitoring feature that uses a worker’s information and physiological data to calculate and predict their sweat rate in liters per hour. Using a proprietary algorithm, the Kenzen device can alert workers of dangerous heat stress via a smart phone app. The data helps eliminate guesswork about how to keep workers safely hydrated and makes it possible for individual workers to know the specific amount of water they need to drink to stay safe.
On-site managers have access to alerts and corporate safety leaders use an analytics dashboard to monitor and evaluate risks to individuals and teams, helping them optimize worker safety. McCarthy will use the technology to identify broad trends that affect all projects and implement preventative measures to increase safety and productivity.
“The Kenzen pilot was a valuable program for our jobsite,” said Andrew Rhines, McCarthy Project Safety Coordinator in Texas. “It benefitted the craft professionals on our site and the data gathered by Kenzen helped verify many different aspects of our national heat illness prevention plans including water consumption and scheduled breaks.”
McCarthy and Kenzen are equally committed to protecting user data; the system does not reveal personal information or reasons why someone is in a particular heat risk category; it is only used to monitor and manage people according to their individual heat susceptibility.
McCarthy makes education about heat illness and injury prevention a priority during the spring and early summer as temperatures increase. The company shares educational information internally, hosts on-site educational and training sessions, and makes resources available for its workforce in-person and online. On projects in high heat areas, McCarthy provides hydration aids, shade stations, cooling fans and brimmed head protection to reduce heat. It’s also common for the projects to alter schedules, allowing the day’s work to be completed before the hottest portion of the day.
From 1992 through 2017, there were 70,000 serious injuries and 815 deaths caused by exposure to excessive heat, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 492 occupational fatalities attributed to exposure to environmental heat from 2003 to 2016, 179, or 36 percent, were in the construction industry.
“McCarthy is a leader in exploring all opportunities to keep employees safe,” said Heidi Lehmann, Kenzen co-founder and President. “With the Kenzen system, they can tailor their approach to individuals, teams, and projects because they have access to new, highly detailed information. This information helps manage risk, realize increased productivity, and meet every worker’s unique requirements for working safely.”
McCarthy has selected several pilot opportunities for the Kenzen system on jobsites in Arizona, Georgia and Texas. Employees using the system understand the protective value it offers and appreciate receiving notifications about their core body temperature, sweat rate, and hydration status – when they should stop and rest, and when it’s safe to return to work.
“The Kenzen system has been a successful initiative for our team and how we approach heat illness risk onsite,” said Sean Blakemore, McCarthy Project Safety Manager in Texas. “The entire Kenzen team is resourceful and is helping us maximize management of the program. The data we’re gathering is a significant benefit for us to not only verify and confirm our current approach, but it also helps everyone understand what drives the additional mitigation measures we take in order to send everyone home safely at the end of each day.”
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the oldest privately held national construction company in the country – with more than 150 years spent collaborating with partners to solve complex building challenges on behalf of its clients. With an unrelenting focus on safety and a comprehensive quality program that span all phases of every project, McCarthy utilizes industry-leading design phase and construction techniques combined with value-add technology to maximize outcomes. Repeatedly honored as a Best Place to Work and Healthiest Employer, McCarthy is ranked the 13th largest domestic builder (Engineering News-Record, May 2021). With approximately 5,000 salaried employees and craft professionals, the firm has offices in St. Louis; Atlanta; Collinsville, Ill.; Kansas City, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; Phoenix; Las Vegas; Denver; Dallas, Houston; and San Diego, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento, Calif. McCarthy is 100 percent employee owned. More information about the company is available online at www.mccarthy.com or by following the company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Startland News’ Startup Road Trip series explores innovative and uncommon ideas finding success in rural America and Midwestern startup hubs outside the Kansas City metro. This series is possible thanks to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which leads a collaborative, nationwide effort to identify and remove large and small barriers to new business creation.
Plug and Play Topeka is back, Lindsay Lebahn said, announcing the accelerator program’s second cohort of startups — including a surging Kansas City company — and revealing ways the effort has redefined the definition of entrepreneurship in the Sunflower State’s epicenter.
Lindsay Lebahn, Plug and Play Animal Health and AgTech Accelerator
“Realistic expectations of Topeka have changed,” explained Lebahn, program manager and a key player in bringing the San Francisco-based accelerator’s presence to Topeka two years ago.
“Topeka is really starting to believe in Topeka. … I think a lot of that [has to do with the] revitalization of downtown. We’ve had a lot of things happen throughout the years, but they would happen in pockets,” she continued, highlighting the efforts of GO Topeka to establish an innovation hub and center near and along Kansas Avenue — and a massive opportunity for connectivity in Shawnee County that comes with it.
“Things were happening, but not necessarily in a centralized location. Unless you lived in that area or visited that area, you didn’t really notice it and didn’t really feel it … but this revitalization of downtown has really helped the momentum of Topeka and I think Topekans are now starting to realize that there’s stuff to do here, there’s opportunities.”
Having successfully launched its first cohort virtually earlier this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Plug and Play welcomed 10 new startups into its animal health program last month. Among them, Kansas City-based Kenzen — a biometric platform and maker of a workplace safety, smart patch that monitors heat, fatigue and over exertion on the job.
Click here to learn more about Kenzen in a Startland News special report, broadcast in partnership with Bank of America.
Heidi Lehmann, president, CCO and co-founder of Kenzen, right, speaks with Channa Steinmetz, Startland News reporter, and Joshua Lewis, founder of UpDown Nightlife, during the 2021 VC-Backed Companies Special Report
Additional participants, chosen by founding partners of the Plug and Play Topeka program Cargill, Evergy, and Hills Pet Nutrition, include: Aegis Packaging, Singapore; Birdstop, San Francisco, California; ISO Thrive, Manassas, VA; Lumin, Charlottesville, Virginia; Maven, Portugal; Nanox, Newton, Massachusetts; Pepperai, New York, New York; Sniffypet; Calgary, Alberta; and Tarot Analytics, Paris, France.
“It’s more than just animal health,” Lebahn said of the cohort and the problems they’re working to solve.
“We’ve seen a lot more [companies tackling] sustainability [and] workforce issues with COVID changing everything. Our partners are really looking to make sure that they are doing everything they can for their company and to make sure that they’re the top of the line, they’ve got the newest, latest, greatest technology.”
Less than a month into the program, current cohort companies have already received interest from venture firms who’ve participated in the program — just one result of Plug and Play’s intentional, cross-vertical programming and events, which see frequent collaboration with its North Dakota-based agtech accelerator and its Silicon Valley-based food-focused program.
Nine nondisclosure agreements have been signed between startups and corporations involved in the first program, Lebahn added, indicating there’s power in the program and its setup.
Click here for a full description of each startup or here to learn more about the Plug and Play Topeka program and past participants.
This article showcases our top picks for the best Missouri based Big Data companies. These startups and companies are taking a variety of approaches to innovating the Big Data industry, but are all exceptional companies well worth a follow.
We tried to pick companies across the size spectrum from cutting edge startups to established brands.
We selected these startups and companies for exceptional performance in one of these categories:
KANSAS CITY, MO (Aug. 20, 2021) – Kenzen, the innovator of monitoring industrial workers’ core body temperatures to predict and prevent heat stress, has announced the results of its most recent research. New data collected from a recent study with three research universities to compare and validate Kenzen’s continuous core body temperature monitoring technology against existing methodologies, has now made the company’s dataset the largest one on continuous core body temperature monitoring in the world. It includes over 75 unique subjects monitored for >24 h, totaling >100,000 minutes of ground truth core temperature data (while wearing the Kenzen device).
The research-validated that the Kenzen wearable device algorithm can now accurately measure workers’ body temperature at rest and during physical activity, in cool, hot, and humid conditions. The research compared the Kenzen device against two current gold standards of measuring core body temperature: when an individual ingests a (gastrointestinal) pill and wears a device to track temperature and when a rectal thermometer is used.
These gold standard methods of measuring core body temperature are problematic for broad industrial use because they are highly invasive and/or expensive, and therefore not scalable. The Kenzen system also factors in biological sex, age, sweat rate, hydration, and heat susceptibility into its calculation of an individual worker’s heat risk, as each of these components play a role in the person’s ability to handle working in the heat. The research has concluded that the Kenzen system meets the industry-accepted standards for core temperature accuracy (i.e. mean absolute error ≤0.3°C) for core body temperatures ranging from 36 to 40°C and environmental conditions ranging from 13 to 43°C (55-109°F).
The research was conducted at three top universities for heat-stress physiology research, including University of Sydney (Australia) and Massey University (New Zealand).
“Many core temperature monitoring solutions fail at temperatures ≥38.5°C (101.3°F), but temperatures above this point are when heat-related injuries and illnesses occur. Using a highly accurate core temperature device is paramount to keeping workers safe,” said Dr. Nicole Moyen, vice president of research and development, Kenzen. “We also built the Kenzen algorithm for all workers – not just young, fit males – and wanted to ensure it would remain accurate for activities in a wide range of environmental conditions.”
“Luckily, there’s increasing awareness and urgency to address heat stress among workforces,” said Heidi Lehmann, Kenzen president and co-founder. Lehmann and her team are spending the summer deploying the system around the world, from solar sites in Florida to mines in Ontario, with fire fighters in Texas and utility workers in Kansas.
Recent studies on the effects of heat on industrial workers have been cited in congressional testimonies and in the New York Times. While only three U.S. states have industrial standards for working in the heat, OSHA recently released new guidance for protecting indoor workers.
Kenzen devices worn by workers contain sensors that monitor, in real-time, an individual’s physiological responses. The worker is warned, via a smart phone app and device vibration, when their core temperature is too high and they are in danger of a heat-related injury or illness. Managers have a corresponding app that alerts them when a worker needs an intervention to stop work, rest, and hydrate. Both workers and their managers also receive a second alert for when it’s safe to return to work based on their own physiological data. EHS leaders use the Kenzen analytics dashboard to make individual, team, or enterprise-wide decisions to minimize heat-related injuries and illnesses across their worksites by looking at aggregated data across weeks and months.
The Kenzen solution integrates the company’s commitment to data privacy; only workers can view the details of their personal health information, while safety managers and other EHS leaders only see what’s necessary to keep workers safe.
Kenzen has deployed its award-winning heat monitors with workforces across the globe in domains such as construction, mining, field services, manufacturing, renewable energy, utility oil and gas, ag, and transportation.
Founded in 2016, Kenzen is the premier physiological monitoring platform to keep workforces safe from heat, fatigue, and over exertion on the job while providing data driven insights to maintain productivity. For more information about heat stress and how to integrate the system into a safety plan, visit Kenzen.com.