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

 

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

EXAMINETICS ANNOUNCES STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN KENZEN

EXAMINETICS ANNOUNCES STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN KENZEN

Smart PPE to help clients stay safe and avoid workplace injury

OVERLAND PARK, KS, January 19, 2021 – Examinetics, the nation’s leading provider of workplace safety compliance services, today announced a strategic investment in Kenzen, innovator of a wearable device to reduce workplace injuries by providing continuous temperature monitoring of workers. Examinetics is a portfolio company of Freedom 3 Capital.

Examinetics President and CEO Paul Fenaroli stated: “Examinetics is committed to working with our clients to keep America’s workers safe, healthy and productive. As the nation’s leading provider of occupational health solutions, we see wearable technologies as the next phase of protection for employees.  has developed and tested an elegant solution for real-time employee safety through the detection of heat stresses to the body. This is the first of what we expect will be several investments in the wearable technologies space in the upcoming years.”

In addition to the investment, the companies have entered into a marketing agreement under which Examinetics will introduce Kenzen technologies to its clients. “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. With over 3,000 clients nationwide, we have the reach and access to health and safety executives in substantially every industrial sector,” said Fenaroli.

Kenzen Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer Heidi Lehmann added: “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.”

As climates get more extreme, heat stresses to workers – which can lead to serious injury – are on the rise. Heat affects the worker’s health and productivity and a company’s safety and financial results. Safety professionals increasingly want real data to predict and prevent heat issues, while protecting workers’ personal health privacy; the Kenzen solution is designed to provide both.

About Examinetics

Examinetics is the nation’s leading provider of occupational health solutions through mobile, onsite, and technology platforms. Our comprehensive suite of occupational health services delivers strategic value to more than 3,000 clients in over 15,000 locations annually. Leading companies partner with Examinetics to achieve regulatory compliance, minimize productivity loss, and acquire vital data required for optimal health outcomes. We call this “Insight x Onsite.”

About Freedom 3 Capital

Freedom 3 Capital (F3C) is a private investment firm, providing capital to non-sponsored middle market companies. Headquartered in New York City, F3C opened its Kansas City office in 2019 to better serve Midwestern-based family and entrepreneur owned businesses needing capital investment for strategic acquisitions, expansion or to refinance existing capital structures. For more information visit www.freedom3.com.

About Kenzen

Founded in 2016, Kenzen is the premier physiological monitoring platform to keep industrial workforces safe from heat, over exertion and illness on the job. For more information about heat stress and how to integrate the system into a safety plan, visit Kenzen.com.

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Garney trials new Kenzen smart device to protect workers from heat stress

Garney trials new Kenzen smart device to protect workers from heat stress

From garney.com

Garney, a firm focused singularly on water and wastewater construction, is interested in keeping its employee-owners as safe as possible on the job. Recently, the company added a new element to its already robust safety programs by testing new wearable technology smart devices.

The devices, worn on the arms of 28 Garney workers at 10 worksites throughout the U.S., are manufactured by Kenzen. They monitor key physiological indicators of each worker, including core body temperature, heart rate, and exertion level. Detecting changes in these factors can lead to proactive prediction and prevention of heat injuries and illnesses, including fatalities.

“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 who coordinated the proof-of-concept project with the company’s environmental health and safety (EHS) leaders and regional project supervisors. “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.”

Data from the wearable sensors provide alerts to workers by sending vibrations to the device and notifications to their smartphones, and to supervisors via their phones and a web dashboard that provides real-time heat health status of all team members. Alerts escalate from an initial “stop work” message to rest and hydrate, to subsequent alerts for additional measures to avoid emergency situations. Follow-up alerts indicate when a person’s core body temperature has returned to a safe level for resuming work.

Cumulative data can be analyzed by EHS leaders at the company to detect patterns and customize heat stress prevention and treatment strategies at various locations – from the dry heat of Arizona to the extreme heat of the Texas sun, to the hot humidity of Florida, and heat conditions at Colorado altitudes. Garney used the location-specific information to adjust break times and educate employee-owners on steps they can take to protect themselves, such as how to acclimatize to warm working conditions when coming onto a worksite, and best clothing choices.

Although Kenzen collects large amounts of physiological data from each worker, varying levels of information are provided to different viewers to protect workers’ rights, especially with regard to the privacy of their personal health information.

“Garney is on the leading edge of bringing technology into the safety equation,” said Heidi Lehmann, co-founder of Kenzen. “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.”

About Kenzen

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

Click here for the full article from garney.com

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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