Editor's Choice


Enhancing worker safety with mobile solutions

May 2022 Editor's Choice

Modern production facilities constantly exchange data. This flood of data is usually managed by central controls. However, for comprehensive and timely monitoring of processes, data must be available closer to the process and more directly – preferably in real time and with low latency.

Modern, intrinsically safe smartphones and tablets can serve as decentralised mini data centres or digital gateways, for example, in combination with professional software, sensors, beacons or other smart peripheral devices. The accumulated data can be transferred to the mobile device in real time and evaluated there with the appropriate applications, at any location and any time. In this way, companies improve their productivity and bolster employee safety – especially in hazardous areas.

Providing the right safety level

In industries with extensive factory premises or potentially explosive areas, employees frequently work alone, outside the range of hearing and vision of their colleagues. They are exposed to higher risks in their daily work and depend on prompt assistance in case of an emergency. If appropriate safety precautions are not taken, injuries, accidents and consequential damage to people and equipment can easily occur.

The company must ensure that the accident is detected and the rescue chain is set in motion swiftly, especially when the injured person is unable to act or when nobody has noticed the accident. In case of critical hazards, it is therefore essential to set up a certified lone-worker protection (LWP) solution. Equipped with sophisticated lone-worker protection software, enterprise mobility solutions reliably protect their users: programmable 3D motion sensors automatically trigger an alarm in the event of a hazard, report the exact location of the incident and document the entire process for later investigation.

A comprehensive lone-worker protection system consists of personal alarm signal terminals (PAST, e.g. mobile phones and other wireless devices), a personal alarm signal system (PASS – software that resides on a server) and connection between the PASS and PAST, for example via a telephone or wireless network.

For larger-scale lone-worker protection solutions it is essential that mobile devices can easily be integrated into cloud server systems. The Pepperl+Fuchs brand, ecom, offers such solutions. The specialist solution for industrial communication and explosion protection combines state-of-the-art lone-worker protection applications with personal emergency response devices.

Practical example: Protecting the mobile worker

The case study of a power plant operator in northern Italy demonstrates the benefits of a lone-worker protection solution consisting of mobile devices and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons developed specifically for hazardous areas.

The management team was looking for an automated system that would help prevent accidents reliably and reduce the time for a potential rescue to an absolute minimum. The company chose a solution with ecom’s smartphone series Smart-Ex and beacon series Loc-Ex, both certified for use in Zone 1/21 and Division 1.

With BLE beacons, employees can also be located indoors or be warned of possible hazards in advance. They have an interior range of approximately 10 to 30 m and up to 300 m out in the open. The signal from the beacon is received by a special application on the Smart-Ex smartphone and the distance to the beacon is calculated.

When the mobile worker enters their working area, their location can be pinpointed accurately – even three-dimensionally, i.e., multiple storeys – and forwarded to the control centre´s central navigation system. The user is not dependent on an Internet connection because the mobile devices and applications store the beacon signals locally on the device and send them immediately to update the backend system as soon as access to the company network is available.

Compared to other geo-location technologies, the beacon technology offers a high degree of precision and accuracy on all three axes. The position of the mobile worker is stored in the temporary memory of the device and is only forwarded to the rescuer in the event of an alarm. It cannot be retrieved either from the device itself or from the outside, from the alarm console in the control centre or by subsequent technical analysis. The solution thus meets all data protection requirements, guarantees the safety of lone workers and, in an emergency, reduces response times of rescuers to a minimum.

Digitalising processes increases safety effectiveness

Industrial enterprises are under constant pressure to increase operational efficiency and productivity of employees, without sacrificing safety. ecom´s mobile communication solutions, as components of a personal emergency response system, also meet the highest business requirements: many tasks can be carried out by oneself, since another person is no longer necessary for safety reasons.

Besides the obvious advantage of having a constant means of communication with workers in the field, this solution also enables them to exchange information and data at any time while moving around a plant or work site. Users also benefit from all the components of mobile solutions, including cameras, barcode scanners and major integrated software solutions.


Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Attaining a sustainable legacy
Technews Publishing (SA Instrumentation & Control) Editor's Choice News
Through this quagmire of crises and uncertainties, the wheels of industry must continue to turn if we are to sustain our modern way of life, and those wheels are, either directly or indirectly, powered by electricity.

Read more...
Meeting the challenges of water management with sensor technology
ifm - South Africa Editor's Choice Analytical Instrumentation & Environmental Monitoring
Holistic solutions for the automation and monitoring of plants are a key element for the efficient and sustainable water supply of the future.

Read more...
From Industry 4.0 to Industry Green.0
Rockwell Automation Editor's Choice News
As sustainability becomes a business imperative for manufacturing organisations, they must incorporate sustainability goals into every step of the business lifecycle – because purpose and profit must go hand in hand.

Read more...
Combining the best of hydraulics with the advantages of electric
Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa Editor's Choice
While battery technologies continue to evolve and overcome challenges that have previously restricted more rapid electrification adoption rates, hybrid electric systems are well positioned as an ideal interim solution.

Read more...
The route to proactive maintenance
Comtest Editor's Choice Maintenance, Test & Measurement, Calibration
What were once complex tasks can now be accomplished by less experienced technicians with easy-to-use tools such as vibration screeners and thermal imagers.

Read more...
LED strips enhance efficient pick-to-light C-parts management
Turck Banner Editor's Choice Operator Interfaces, Switches & Relays
KEB Automation used Turck’s WLS15 strip lights to refine its assistance system for C-parts management into an efficient and failsafe pick-to-light solution.

Read more...
Young unemployed graduate gets kickstart to his career
ABB South Africa Editor's Choice News
The training provided by ABB is hands-on and will see Momelezi Sifumba rotate through different departments and activities to ensure his practical experience is as well-rounded as possible.

Read more...
Case History 183: Bad valve split-ranging causing problems
Michael Brown Control Engineering Editor's Choice System Integration & Control Systems Design
Pressure control is one of the processes that can be self-regulating or integrating, and it is sometimes very difficult to determine which type it is.

Read more...
Sensors train many eyes on FMCGs
VEGA Controls SA Editor's Choice Sensors & Transducers
Profit margins on consumer goods are small, which makes it all the more important for producers to have smooth, efficient operating processes.

Read more...
Optimised, PC-based food production
Beckhoff Automation Editor's Choice System Integration & Control Systems Design
Foodjet’s MDL food printers can portion and deposit toppings with maximum precision, whether coating pizza dough with a perfect layer of tomato sauce, or icing doughnuts with seasonal decorations.

Read more...