A Case Study in Preventing Heat Risk for 28 Workers in 10 Cities During the Hot Summer of 2020
By Ryan Smith, Regional Safety Manager, Garney Construction
Garney Construction is always looking for new ways to help bolster its safety program. An assistant project manager, working in hot and humid south Florida, researched heat safety and ways to keep the crews as safe as possible during the hot summer months. What he found were smart personal protective equipment wearable health monitors. Garney management decided to explore the benefits of continuously monitoring its employee-owners at work sites to track heat stresses and help predict and prevent injuries and the risk of fatalities from overexertion in hot and humid environments.
Heat is a major concern on a construction site. Most workers think they know their bodies’ limits in the heat, but many don’t stop working when they reach those limits and push through signs of heat stress. Workers can self-monitor their bodies’ physiological factors with wearable devices, which indicate when the body starts to negatively respond to overexertion during hot and humid conditions. Garney decided to try the technology. Not only would workers receive warning signals when their bodies were under stress, managers would receive alerts to intervene if a worker was tempted to keep working, despite their body’s need for rest, hydration and other interventions to return to safe working levels.
During kick-off of the testing phase, the field staff was initially apprehensive. They had to remember to affix a sensor—in this case via an arm strap—that monitored certain health indicators throughout activity during the workday. But once the device was secured and comfortable, employee-owners were able to work normally and the device was largely forgotten. The crews wanted to know who would see their health data, but by partnering with the manufacturer for the training and onboarding, they were assured no one but them would see their personal information. The only information the supervisor would see would be an alert that indicated a worker’s body had reached a dangerous heat level, and work should stop to allow for rest and other cool-down practices, depending on the level of health risk.
Garney’s crews were working in several locations from California to Virginia. The company conducted week-long tests at 10 sites over the course of the two hottest working months of 2020. Data was collected by sensors on the workers that continuously monitored their heart rate, body temperature and respiration. Workers’ phones vibrated to indicate if a physiological threshold of safety had been surpassed. At the same time, managers on site received alerts on their tablets about individual employee-owners who needed to take a break and cool down. Via a team-view dashboard, they could track everyone’s heat health on site throughout the day.
Cumulative data from across all the test sites was compiled and analyzed by Garney’s Safety Council, made up of superintendents, project managers, safety professionals and officers who focus on the safety needs of the company. Analytics from the test helped the Safety Council determine the overall health and safety of workers across the entire business and the data was used to inform how to improve the company’s safety programs.
Garney now has the data to know when to provide rest breaks and treatment for individuals with varying levels of ability to work in the heat and humid. Age, weight, gender, fitness, medications and previous medical conditions all play a part in determining the tolerance of working in the heat. The frequency and length of breaks need to vary depending on those factors. Providing shade, hydration, ice baths, elevating feet and other tactics can aid in cooling the body. The PPE monitoring devices not only kept workers healthier, they increased productivity because the system was customized to each worker’s body needs, and when. This allows workers to perform better and more efficiently throughout the workday.
Advancements in technology have been improving all phases of construction for years. Having smart PPE monitoring devices in place is similar to when compact gas monitors became readily available. Protecting crews from unseen gas or lack of oxygen was once the job of a canary. The new worker wearable systems are the new canary in the coal mine with the potential to have the same impact on heat-related safety risks.
Click here for the full article from Construction Executive
Click here for the full article from EHS Daily Advisor
By Kyle Hubregtse
“Technology is taking us all over” is the most prolific comment I’ve heard lately, most recently from a crew member on a construction jobsite in the southeastern United States. When introducing wearable safety technology, EHS managers must employ knowledge, listening, and patience.
It’s true that technology has permeated many aspects of our life. It’s now commonplace to have new technology in our pockets and on the limbs of our bodies as our interests in convenience, productivity, health, and well-being increase. The early days of counting steps or calories were engaging, but technology has evolved significantly since then. Now, physiological data can be captured and analyzed in real time to promote peak performance and predict adverse health events, promoting interventions to change the course of a potential health risk. Such technical devices are increasingly being used by companies to monitor workers to increase safety and productivity. The power of health data is bringing valuable benefits to both individuals and their employers.
The choice to use a wearable device that measures and tracks personal health data is easier when wearers have confidence that the data the body is creating are safe and secure. But what happens when the choice isn’t necessarily their own? Smart wearables as personal protective equipment (PPE) are emerging on worksites, and when workers are mandated to wear the technology by their employers, many times, the first question from a worker is: “Are my personal data safe?” This is followed by questions such as “Where do my data go?” or “Who is watching me and my data?” and “Why is the company monitoring me?” These questions must be addressed and taken seriously … over and over again.
Consider that even worksite supervisors may have apprehension, given they are also employees and likely will be wearing the same or similar technology. They, too, may have certain on-site duties that cause stress on the body, even if those duties don’t involve heavy labor. By simply managing on-site in extreme environmental conditions, such as high heat and/or humidity, managers’ health data may also be collected and used to inform enhanced prevention and intervention procedures.
Clearly communicating how technology works; the benefits it provides to both the individual and the company; and the routing, visibility, storage, and deletion of data is vital at the onset of the use of any wearable technology. This information will need to be provided regularly to increase confidence and comfort with the technology and maximize its use and value.
Typically, during the early adoption stages, a common sentiment may arise among the workforce about technology in general taking over activities typically done by a worker or technology otherwise interfering with the work. Early adoption of any new technology causes apprehension, which can be addressed, again, through clear and consistent communications. Once technology starts to prove its value and concerns are allayed through its use, acceptance levels improve.
Industrial safety technology keeps workers safer on the job. In the unfortunate case of an incident, when technology plays a role in a positive outcome—such as preventing an injury or saving a life—technology champions on the team will come forward. There is a strong culture among teams on a jobsite; everyone looks out for each other. When technology protects a worker from harm, it converts skeptics into believers and behaviors toward the technology become more supportive. Technology champions are helpful because they educate their coworkers and encourage compliance. Health-monitoring wearable technology fits particularly well within this group culture, where people are used to watching out for each other’s well-being. One person seeing another faltering is an informal backup system to the technology, which alerts the worker when his or her body is stressed. If the person under stress tries to push through the work and disregard warnings from the device to stop, it’s likely another worker will intervene and encourage the distressed worker to pay attention to the warnings and rest.
As any safety manager knows, it’s easier to make changes to procedures in collaboration with your workforce, not against them. This is particularly true with the integration of new technology. Start with an open mind and a will to listen, respond, and learn more, and communicate if you don’t have all the answers at first. Be proactive about asking workers of different experiences and perspectives if they’re nervous or apprehensive about the change and why. Know as much as you can about the problems that are being addressed with the change. In the case of health-monitoring technology, it will be important to understand the physiological factors of the body that are being monitored and why they trigger interventions. These include heart rate and core body temperature. It’s also important to remember that everybody is different, so situations will vary for every worker. Some will acclimatize more quickly to heat and humidity, for example, and some will have certain health conditions that require a work-rest schedule unique to their body. Knowing the information makes it easier to educate, encourage, and respond to questions and feedback from workers. This elicits greater trust in the technology and the reasons it is being used by the company.
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.
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.
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
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
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
“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
“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