Using Your Digital Toolbox to Stay Safe
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the industrial hygiene and safety community: faced with PPE shortages, additional disinfecting requirements, and a reduced workforce, IHs have had their hands full.
Whatever the impact at your organization, the industrial hygienist’s digital toolbox has never been more important. For many, this is an opportunity to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to decrease worker density or scale monitoring capabilities.
Leveraging Your Digital Toolbox
The fourth industrial revolution has sparked investments in digital technology, preparing many IHs for the challenges of remote work with smart hardware and remote access-capable software. In gas detection, everything from personal monitors to area monitors to fixed- and open-path sensors can deliver data remotely. This means you can detect local hazards, protect critical workers on site, make entry and response decisions, and track responder locations—all while maintaining social distancing protocols.
Interconnected equipment is a significant component in your digital toolbox, allowing you to quickly readjust to changing conditions, adapt easily to short- or long-term hazard monitoring, establish hazard perimeters, and provide a common operating plan that ensures your EHS teams are on the same page.
The Power of an Integrated Platform
While digital tools simplify industrial safety, they aren’t without challenges. Commonly, IHs struggle to maintain disparate monitoring systems when switching to connected equipment, especially when the system comes with per-user licensing fees. Another common hurdle is difficulty in using information-sharing capabilities, which degrades collaboration and can lead to disastrous results.
The solution is to integrate. Integrated platforms are well established in industries such as marketing and sales and are becoming more common for industrial sites.
Selecting an integration platform can be hard, but you’ll be rewarded with fewer personnel siloes, a shared operating picture, and a safer site.
Connected hardware and software programs often relay data to third-party platforms via an application programming interface (API). The menu of compatible interfaces and communication protocols for a platform is therefore one of the most important things to consider when choosing an integration solution.
Another factor is the additional features provided by the platform you’re considering. Based on the data it can access, does the platform offer live dashboards or only historical reports? Does it model chemical dispersions using real-time data? Can it send alerts to you and your workers?
With the right platform, you can use and view data from multiple systems on one screen. You can also grant secure, remote access to your EHS teams, providing a common operating picture in these ever-changing times.
Continuous Improvement in Emergency Preparedness
In the process of adapting to COVID-19, create or update alternative preparedness plans that reflect changes to your site’s operations and those of the surrounding community. Knowing your neighbors’ short-term emergency preparedness plans allows you to quickly and easily inform them of an emergency on your site and identify any potential impacts to the community. Start by contacting your Local Emergency Preparedness Committee and local responders to learn of any changes in their staffing or procedures, and then adjust your plans accordingly.
Social distancing measures and closed facilities prevent hands-on training and on-site drills for the time being, so conduct remote tabletop exercises by using your digital toolbox and integration platform to identify, monitor, and resolve challenges from an appropriate distance. Be sure to update your predefined chemical release scenarios to reflect all operational changes.
With the right digital tools and some practice, you can help your personnel understand and respond to the challenges they face while working remotely.