How Technology can Enhance Safety in Manufacturing Industry: My Personal Note
Location: Ras Laffan Industrial city, Qatar
As part of my R&D related training on a safety software product, I landed in one of the biggest industrial cities of the world – Ras Laffan, Qatar, as a guest. Ras Laffan Industrial City is an industrial hub which hosts big companies like ORYX GTL, Pearl GTL plants, Qatargas, RasGas LNG plants, the Dolphin Gas Processing plant, the Laffan Refinery to name a few.
Qatar was literally boiling in summer with high rates of humidity. As soon as I entered into the premises of Ras Laffan, I faced difficulty in breathing. The air was filled with chemicals which made me feel uncomfortable. I wondered how people worked here, in such harsh conditions, under the scorching heat. A plethora of questions came to my mind regarding the safety of the people working in manufacturing domain:
- How effective is the safety system here?
- Do the management systems here still follow the traditional (manual) practices for ensuring the health and safety of the employees?
- How much does safety matter in the manufacturing industry?
- How safety measures can be leveraged with the help of technology?
Later on, adding to my excitement, I was instructed to undergo a brief safety certification-cum-training at the Safety College as part of the Ras Laffan Official Guest Entry Procedure. This training session answered almost all my above questions on safety.
The Safety College in which the course was conducted, is a vast facility which spreads across 1,000,000 meters. The class was conducted by a Safety Engineer – Mr. Keith Lorenz from Philippines.
This blog will be a recollection of that session and the notes I took down as part of the training.
Occupational safety and health risk factors are unique for each industry. These factors vary depending on the nature of work. For example, construction workers might be facing risks of falling down, whereas, workers in chemical industry will be exposed to hazardous chemicals/ gas leakage.
According to the United States Department of Labor, every year almost 6000 people are fatally injured at the workspaces and more than 4 million people suffer from non-fatal injuries. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies that fishing, aviation, lumber, metal works, agriculture, mining, and transportation industries are among some of the most risk generating sectors as far as health and safety are concerned. Manufacturing companies have traditionally been very slow to react to the advent of digital technologies and their related impact across the manufacturing value chain.
But now, lot of implementations are occurring in the manufacturing industry for improvising safety measures with the help of the latest technologies.
Following are some of the few areas, where technology is implemented successfully to enhance safety measures.
Digitalized Visualization to identify hazards more clearly
Manufacturing sites have certain areas where we cannot easily enter and analyze the conditions to ensure safety. Certain accidents that occur in the remote areas within these sites fail to get reported on time. Situations are changing now with the advent of latest technologies. Digital Prototyping generates a conceptual design with which the engineering, manufacturing, and sales & marketing departments can virtually explore the whole product before it gets released in the market.
How to solve Ergonomic problems digitally?
Most of the “on-the-site injuries” are caused by factors like accidental falls, fire, dangerous repetitive movements, wrong sitting postures, lifting heavy objects, or using pressure or force. These problems can be collectively named as ergonomic problems. Safety engineer shoulders the responsibility to manage these issues.
I would like to talk about a software tool which I came across recently. Readmax-HAV (Hand Arm Vibration Tracker) is a solution for ergonomic problems. This tool lets you understand how much research is going on in this area and how easily we can solve such problems with the help of technology.
This tool tracks the personnel and tool information with the help of a web based system which allows centralized access to HAV exposure details. Using a handheld reader, this tool tracks the details of a tool used by an employee. Each tool will have unique tags or IDs. The handheld reader scans these details and tracks which employee has been issued with a particular tool and what all risks are involved in the tool usage or does the employee have any exposure to hazards. All the data get updated in a central database thus ensuring a complete tracking of the employee’s safety at workplace. Ideally it tracks the employee’s exposure to any hazardous objects/ situations.
Immediate results improve safety
No longer do workers need to wait for hours to get the results of their activities at workplace. Digitized equipment are ready to give the results instantly.
Automation brings accident rates down
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a revolutionary technology that allows electronic devices to stay connected with each other within the existing Internet infrastructure and to communicate with one another without human intervention. With IoT, most of the manual activities can be automated. This increases efficiency and decreases the number of accidents.
Technology-powered advanced courses and colleges
Advanced courses and colleges have started functioning across the world, with the aim to generate technically expert safety engineers.
The Ras Laffan Emergency and Safety College (RLESC) offers world-class courses related to Occupational Health & Safety.
Courses like National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) are designed with the goal of imparting safety education and awareness to workers.
Share Data easily using Cloud computing
Nowadays, manufacturers are very much keen on implementing cloud in manufacturing plants to increase the efficiency and speed of data sharing. Using cloud, safety alerts and announcements on any hazards can be passed on to the employees easily.
In the wake of 2nd October 2015 – USA Manufacturing Day – we can hope that the manufacturing industry will spread its wings to broadly accept newer technologies and implement a better safety culture.
Before I conclude, I would like to share this mantra that one should keep in your mind – Nothing is more important than reaching home safely and hugging your loved ones.
About the author
Aswajith M P is a Software Engineer at Suyati Technologies. He aims to spread the good word about developing software, most often on the Microsoft stack. He will speak about computers (and other passions) whenever someone will listen to him. Apart from his technical skills, Aswajith also has a penchant for creative writing, blogging and inbound marketing.