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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This article was featured in OILMAN Magazine

Treating All Workers the Same in the Heat? That Could Be Risky

Treating All Workers the Same in the Heat? That Could Be Risky

JULY 14, 2020 BY RICK LEBLANC

Read the full Reuseable Packaging news article, “Treating All Workers the Same in the Heat? That Could Be Risky” featured here.

By Nicole Moyen, Vice President of Research and Development at Kenzen and heat stress blogger

When it comes to planning for the prevention of heat-related injuries & illnesses among an entire workforce, a one-size plan does not fit all.

The research behind managing worker safety under hot working conditions has largely been based on studies of young, healthy men, which means that other populations – women, older adults, and people with other risk factors – will need different accommodations if a heat safety program is to be effective.

Sex, age, health status, and other factors can impact risk

According to researchers who study how heat affects workforces, “…existing guidelines adopted and recommended for use by government agencies worldwide to protect the public and workers also assumes a “one size fits all” approach to protect human health. These guidelines generally prescribe protective measures (e.g., heat advisories, exposure limits) using models defined by the assessment of heat strain in young and/or relatively healthy adults. They fail to consider key factors such as sex, age, health status, and other factors, which can markedly alter a person’s tolerance to heat, thereby leaving a large segment of the population under-protected…” (1)

For example, a man working at the same relative work rate as a woman will typically have a higher sweat rate. This is because men generally have a larger body-surface-area-to-mass ratio than women.

Given that sweating is the main way a body gets rid of body heat, this higher sweat rate among men means that their body temperature will be lower in hot-dry (low humidity) climates. As a result of this higher sweat rate & lower body temperature, men will likely be able to work for a longer period of time than women. However, in hot-humid climates where sweat can’t evaporate as easily and therefore doesn’t cool you down, women will likely be able to work for a longer period of time than men. This is because men will continue to sweat more than women, but this sweat won’t be cooling them down, and in fact, they’ll just lose a lot of body water. The effect: in hot-humid environments, men will become dehydrated more quickly than women, and see a faster increase in core body temperature – the primary trigger of heat-related injuries and illnesses.

Older workers more susceptible to heat stress

Another natural factor that can vary the susceptibility of heat-related injuries and illnesses among workers is age. After age 35, the body’s ability to dissipate heat, primarily through sweating, declines. As a result, older adults tend to have higher core body temperatures than younger adults, when working at the same rate in the heat. This difference between older and younger individuals can be minimized with heat acclimatization and endurance training.

In addition, some people are able to acclimatize faster and tolerate heat better than others; a portion of this appears to be attributable to genetic makeup.

Moreover, there are various diseases that can impair the body’s ability to effectively thermoregulate, such as various cardiovascular diseases (e.g., hypertension), sweat gland disorders (e.g., Type I and Type II diabetes), skin disorders (e.g., psoriasis), and metabolic disorders. Individuals with these diseases will be at increased risk for heat-related injuries and illnesses.

These factors (age, biological sex, and disease) affect each individual differently when working in the heat, and therefore require workforce supervisors to alter their approach in developing work/rest schedules for workers. It is important to observe changes in employees’ health while on the job site and take appropriate, individualized measures to ensure that each person remains at safe core body temperatures. Always listen to workers when they say they’re not feeling well, and allow them to take a break.

Smart PPE sensors can detect and relay warnings

Smart personal protective equipment (PPE) is available to monitor individual workers’ health during work in the heat. New sensors, worn on the body, can detect and relay warnings to both the worker and supervisor and alert when an intervention – such as stopping work, resting, and allowing the body to cool-down – should happen.

In the absence of such a system, active monitoring such as keen observation, a worker-buddy system that pairs employees with each other to do “check-ins,” and encouraging workers to be acutely aware of their body’s signals of heat injury/illness are all ways to help prevent the negative consequences of heat stress on workers.

When an employee begins to exhibit goosebumps or chills, light-headedness, nausea, and/or feels more weak or fatigued than usual, likely they are experiencing heat exhaustion. Other indicators include fainting, light-headedness, unusually hot skin, excessive sweating, potential vomiting, and difficulty working.

If the worker experiences hallucinations, behavior changes such as aggressiveness, irritability, confusion, and/or irrational tendencies, feels week, or is no longer able to work, their core body temperature may have reached greater than 104°F or 40°C. Likely, this person is experiencing exertional heatstroke. This is a medical emergency and the person needs to be immediately cooled in an ice-water bath.

Flexible work-rest schedules can make a difference

Again, given the person’s biological sex, age, genetics, and diseases, people on your workforce will react differently to working in hot and humid conditions. The main way to “customize” a heat safety program for a diverse team is to be flexible in work-rest schedules. Not all workers will need a break at pre-designated intervals. The body signals outlined above will dictate when rest is needed, where cooling (finding shade and/or air conditioning, and removing excess clothing) and hydration should be emphasized.

During the rest periods, continue to observe individual workers and check their ability to return to work every 10-15 minutes. Because each person will respond completely differently to working in the heat, only that individual can indicate when they’re ready to safely return to work.

REFERENCES

Kenny, G.P., Notley, S.R., Flouris, A.D. and Grundstein, A., 2020. Climate Change and Heat Exposure: Impact on Health in Occupational and General Populations. In Exertional Heat Illness (pp. 225-261). Springer, Cham.
https://www.osha.gov/heat/

Budd, G.M., 2008. Wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT)—its history and its limitations. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11(1), pp.20-32.
Regulation, T.R.A.D.O.C., 2016. 350-29. Prevention of heat and cold casualties. Fort Eustis, VA: US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Publication TRADOC Regulation, pp.350-29.

Coco, A., Jacklitsch, B., Williams, J., Kim, J.H., Musolin, K. and Turner, N., 2016. Criteria for a recommended standard: occupational exposure to heat and hot environments. control Ccfd, editor.

Nicole Moyen leads R&D at Kenzen, the smart PPE innovator focused on physiological monitoring and the prevention of heat injury and death among workers. Kenzen’s real-time heat monitoring system is used by companies to keep workers safe from heat. Moyen has a decade of research experience in industry and academia related to human physiology and wearable devices and advises companies on heat stress physiology and dehydration. Nicole has an M.S. in Exercise Physiology and is currently finishing her PhD in Biology from Stanford University.

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.

Conclusion

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 Wearable Protects Against Heat Injuries

Smart Wearable Protects Against Heat Injuries

As seen in New Equipment Digest

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, this sensor data allows for the real-time prediction of core body temperature, providing alerts to workers and supervisors when temperatures approach unsafe levels.

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 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.

Treating All Workers the Same in the Heat? That Could Be Risky

KENZEN Featured in Coatings Pro

Real-Time Heat Monitoring System for Workers

You can see the original article in Coatings Pro, here.

With the summer season approaching, Kenzen has introduced a real-time worker heat monitoring system. The platform includes a wearable device worn by workers on their arm, which alerts both the worker and his or her supervisor when core body temperature is too high.

These real-time alerts are designed to allow for immediate intervention and worker safety from heat injuries, according to the company.

The wearable, via its advanced sensor complement, monitors multiple physiological and environmental metrics, including heart rate, activity, skin, and ambient temperatures.

Multi-Level Alerts

Kenzen’s multi-level alerts are sent to workers via device vibration, iOS or Android app notification, and to supervisors via a web dashboard alert, which signals that the worker should take a break and allow his or 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.

Potential Modifications

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

According to the company, 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.

KENZEN Featured on The Fabricator

KENZEN Featured on The Fabricator

Kenzen’s body heat sensor system helps ensure worker safety

You can see the original article on The Fabricator, here.

Kenzen has launched a real-time worker heat monitoring system. The cloud-based software as a service system includes a wearable device worn by workers on their arm which alerts both the workers and their supervisor when core body temperature is too high. Real-time alerts allow for immediate intervention to help prevent heat injuries.

The unit monitors multiple physiological and environmental metrics, including heart rate, activity, skin, and ambient temperatures. Together, this sensor data allows for the real-time prediction of core body temperature, providing alerts to workers and supervisors when temperatures approach unsafe levels.