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

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

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.