A new, muscular type of technology is growing on the plains. It puts biometrics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to work — helping workplaces operate more efficiently and keeping workers safer. See how Kansas City is capitalizing on this growing sector.
Dr. Sonia Sousa, a founder of Kenzen, passed away in May of 2018. It was challenging, but the startup moved forward.
Kenzen was in the process of deploying a pilot with an industrial company. That pilot pointed to a new direction for the company—providing a predictive physiological monitoring system, including a wearable device that keeps workers safe from heat, fatigue, and overexertion.
In 2016, Heidi Lehmann, now the CEO of Kenzen, had been brought into the company to guide commercialization and help the company raise equity financing.
With the product-market fit identified, the management team at Kenzen realized that Kansas City, MO., was the best place to be headquartered. The company already had a presence there and it is close to industrial customers. As someone whose professional life was in New York City in digital media then consumer wearables, Lehmann had to find a way to fit in and find others who would, too.
Kenzen focuses on core body temperature, which doesn’t require a biomarker analysis or operating in the regulated market. Both require FDA approval to assess heat injury and illness from core body temperature. The wearable device is non-invasive, not an injectable pill, and not a rectal or esophageal probe. And a wearable device is easily scalable.
“We developed the largest validated data set of core body temperature across the globe,” said Lehmann. “It’s been tested by both genders across different age groups and worksites across the globe. We also recently had our algorithm peer-reviewed and are the only algorithm that accurately predicts heat injury or illness from a wearable.”
Climate Technology from Kenzen passes SOC 2 Type 1 audit for keeping industrial worker data secure in the age of the connected worker
Just in time for safely monitoring worker health this summer
Data privacy will be key to meeting President Biden’s heat rules and OSHA heat standards
KANSAS CITY, MO (March 22, 2022) – On the cusp of new U.S. Federal heat rules and OSHA heat standards for protecting workers as the earth’s temperatures rise to expected new records this summer, Kenzen, makers of climate tech that monitors worker health and wellness in the heat, has achieved its next data security and privacy milestone. Kenzen announces it has passed the System and Organization Controls 2 (SOC 2) Type I audit from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Its technology meets trust services criteria for securing worker data.
The SOC 2 audit was performed by independent accounting firm Sensiba San Filippo, LLP.
SOC 2 is an information security standard based on a thorough examination of controls relevant to the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of personal data.
“Kenzen was founded on the worker-centric, ethical platform of keeping individuals’ health data secure,” said Heidi Lehmann, co-founder of Kenzen. “From the beginning, our goal was to set the gold standard in worker privacy for industrial tech. Now climate tech, worker wellness, and worker health disparities are top of mind for the Federal and local governments, regulators, the media, and employers – especially those with large workforces. Rising temperatures are increasing worker injuries and deaths. There’s new urgency to solve the issue, but sound solutions must protect individual privacy.”
“Companies no longer need to weigh the benefits of saving lives and gaining productivity against the risk of exposing workers’ personal data in the process. As the business case for worker health gets stronger with rising temps and fatalities, data safeguards must also get stronger,” said Lehmann.
Kenzen wearable monitors collect tens of thousands of data points per worker per shift. The information is used to protect workers from injury on the job and optimize worker health in hot and humid conditions. Three distinct views of data are available: one for the worker, one for the on-site supervisor, and one for the company’s EHS team. Kenzen’s proprietary algorithms filter data at each level to keep personal, identifiable information accessible only to the worker. When the data indicates a need for an intervention to prevent the worker from overheating, an alert and suggested next steps are sent to the supervisor. At the corporate level, health and safety teams receive anonymized trend information derived from aggregated data, which they use to make decisions to improve safety and productivity at their worksites.
National Centers for Environmental Information and NASA are predicting record temperatures in 2022. July 2021 was the earth’s hottest month ever, with 200 million Americans under heat advisories. Extreme temperatures result in annual losses of two billion labor hours and $162B in wages, with every 10° (F) temperature increase causing a 393 percent uptick in hospitalizations for heat exposure.
Kenzen is workforce safety technology at the intersection of unparalleled heat science and climate technology. Its physiological monitoring platform protects workforces from heat on the job while providing data-driven insights for improving productivity. The Kenzen solution protects workers throughout the world in a wide variety of industrial sectors. Through research and validation with top universities and use of its system by more than 50 companies, Kenzen has amassed the largest known dataset of continuous core body temperature in the world and has the only peer-reviewed algorithm proven to predict core temperature through a wearable device.
You may be thinking: Adults know when they are hot, when to drink water and are capable of determining if they need a break from activity, such as work. So why does heat need to be regulated by OSHA? Research suggests assumptions regarding one’s ability to self-manage heat exposure may not be so simple.
Those experiencing heat stress may not feel symptoms immediately or symptoms may include impaired judgement. People willingly tolerate more extreme temperatures when under motivational conflict including physical effort or monetary reward, according to “Physiology and Behavior.“ A person experiencing impaired decision-making for either reason may mistakenly judge themselves able to safely continue an activity. If they keep working as their body temperature increases, additional symptoms arise, such as unsteadiness and cognitive impairment, which increase the likelihood of workplace injury. Additionally, employees may never have received adequate education regarding heat-related illness symptoms, which increases the likelihood of ignoring warning signs. Many employees do not report symptoms they experience, which increases their risk of serious complications or death from heat exposure.
Workplace injuries increase in indoor and outdoor settings by 5% to 7% when temperatures are higher than 85°F and by 10% to 15% when temperatures are higher than 100°F, according to IZA Institute of Labor Economics. It is not a large leap to assume workplace injuries will increase as the number of hot days increases. Workplace injuries create financial burdens for companies. The average non-fatal workplace injury costs an employer $42,000 per occurrence and a death costs $1,220,000. If up to 35% of people exposed to hazardous heat experience some form of heat strain, and one common symptom impairs judgement (leading to accidents), ignoring heat risks is not financially sustainable.
Heat illness is a sneaky problem, creating economic impacts for employees, employers, and the U.S. economy. Prompt diagnosis, cooling, and supportive measures are the only way to manage heat illness. But, even with these things, long-term negative effects are still possible. Prevention of heat stress is the most effective approach to managing it. OHSA heat standards will help employers protect their human assets and reduce the economic burden of heat by preventing heat illnesses and casualties. Research shows that when workers take time to rest, hydrate and cool themselves, they are able to work for longer periods without reaching harmful core body temperatures.
PREDICTING HOW OSHA HEAT STANDARDS WILL HELP
There are still many things we don’t know about the upcoming OSHA heat standards, but several resources give clear insight to the situation including, the H.R.2193 Act, OSHA’s memorandum9 and ANPRM2, and the NIOSH Criteria for a Recommended Standard. H.R.2193 requires the new heat standard be no less protective than the most protective plan put in place by an individual state. Many people believe this will cause the policies to closely mimic California’s current heat regulations for workers. However, the three other states with heat standards today include details California does not. As a result, it’s likely the standards will mimic California’s structure while including a smattering of details from the other states’ heat policies. Some basic assumptions can be made regarding what will be included in upcoming federal heat standards.
Can your company afford not to implement wearable technology as part of its HRI prevention program?
Until now, the world at large wasn’t speculating on the occupational impact of climate change. However, organizations like the Department of Labor, OSHA, NIOSH as well as President Biden, by issuing new heat rules for worksites, are making the issue of dangerous heat impossible to ignore. Heat risk to workers and companies has caught the attention of many organizations and international media because it now kills more Americans than any other weather-related event, and it has been injuring workers quietly for many years.
As industrial companies and workers await OSHA heat standards, climate tech is proliferating many worksites, because it’s proving critical to predicting and preventing occupational heat injury and illness (HRI) as climate change causes an increased number of days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and longer, more extreme heat waves.
Wearable technology can detect HRI symptoms that are hard to diagnose on work sites for several reasons:
Symptoms may not exist. Many people who experience HRI state that they “feel fine,” until they get dizzy, pass out and fall down.
Symptoms may be hard to identify. Fatigue and nausea may be misinterpreted as caused by food illness or too much alcohol the previous night. Temperament changes and lack of attention may be attributed to stress or a bad day. Unsteadiness and dropped items may just be simple mistakes. Muscle cramps may be mistaken for overdoing it the day before or a hard workout at the gym. Yet, each of these things are signs of HRI.
Workers may have been incorrectly trained. Research indicates many people believe that, if they are sweating, they are safe from HRI. Workers haven’t been trained to know that this is not true.
Symptoms may impede one’s own ability to self-identify HRI and react. Impaired judgment, disrupted cognitive function, lack of focus, inability to make decisions and poor comprehension could impede a worker’s ability to detect heat risk on the body.
Workplaces may not be watching for HRI. Heat assessment indexes and weather warning systems may not reflect variables specific to workplaces, such as metabolic heat production from work tasks, clothing layers, PPE, heat generated from machines and materials, etc., leaving workers unaware of their risks. Some assessment indexes may even use antiquated versions of heat indicators.
President Biden recently tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with developing new rules for heat safety among workers, calling attention to an ongoing problem that is only projected to get worse with a warming climate.
This means workers who labor outside, such as construction workers, industrial workers or any who face potentially harmful temperatures. And that includes first responders, who know all too well the dangers of becoming overheated, especially firefighters.
Firefighters routinely risk their lives entering dangerously hot environs with no way of knowing when to stop and cool off. The firefighting industry has been teased by technology, such as wearable heat sensors, but few departments across the nation have them. The technology is now available, and at least one company is marketing sensors it says fit the needs of firefighters.
Kenzen makes wearable devices that monitor core body temperature and can alert both the worker and a supervisor if that temperature begins to reach a danger zone. The device has been tested thoroughly and has been used by firefighter training schools, as well as major oil and gas companies working with training crews.
Curt Floyd, retired deputy fire chief and now first responder technical lead for the National Fire Protection Association, said this type of device would be beneficial to today’s firefighter.
“Typically we do not monitor our own body heat other than through normal human awareness, which often is late to indicate that we may have a problem,” Floyd said. “At large or long-duration events, Incident Command will have a rehabilitation group set up to monitor firefighters once they exit the host zone.”
Floyd said the firefighters are monitored in several ways, including by body temp to prevent a medical condition from heat exposure. “If a firefighter had a device that they could easily read that tells them their body temp is increasing to dangerous levels, they would be more apt to take actions to prevent a medical event,” he said.
He said the biggest challenge would be the change in culture. “Firefighters are action-oriented and driven individuals, who when given a mission to search for possible trapped victims, they push their bodies and many personal warning signs aside to accomplish that mission.”
Heidi Lehmann, who founded Kenzen, acknowledged that “band of brothers” mentality and said the ability for a supervisor to monitor workers, and also monitor conditions as a whole through a dashboard, could help break down that culture of not wanting to opt out and take a break when fellow firefighters are in the battle.
“They don’t want to be the one person sitting down in the shade if everyone else is working,” Lehmann said. “So the safety manager also looks at the team to see if an alert has been ignored or if somebody is ready to go back to work so they can intervene.”
Lehmann described the device as being at the intersection of workforce safety technology and heat science and climate tech. It’s physiology based, with the front end of the platform worn on the worker’s upper arm. It samples the worker’s physiology about every five seconds and collects tens of thousands of data points per work, per shift. That data translates into a message to the supervisor about the risk the worker is undergoing.
“The main measurement we’re looking for is core body temperature and then sweat rate,” Lehmann said. It’s accurate to within a 0.2 percent range of predicting core body temperature.
Lehmann founded Kenzen in 2016 and began commercially deploying the devices in 2020. In between there was a lot of research and development being done both in and out of the United States, including with sport teams such as the San Francisco 49ers. There are about a thousand of the devices around the globe, with the biggest verticals being construction and mining.
Last year, a record-breaking year for temperatures on Earth, there were more than 200 million Americans under heat advisories. With every 10 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, causing a 393 percent increase in hospitalizations for heat exposure.