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Digital tools and workplace accident prevention, part 2

In the first part of this post, we raised the question of how the application of enhanced technology could make for a safer and smarter workplace.

The types of applications we are talking about go far beyond traditional tools like personal protective equipment. These new applications could conceivably integrate data streams and human perceptions in a way that would make the workplace safer.

In this part of the post, we will look at a specific example of how this might be able to reduce the number of workplace injuries in the Baltimore area and across the nation.

Last year, a suspicious noise in a steel mill's oxygen furnace in Northwest Indiana needed to be checked out. The job fell to a 53-year-old man who died from terrible burns caused by the busting of a steam hose that had been under excessive pressure.

In a smarter mill of the future, it would probably not be necessary to send a human worker as a canary into that kind of coal mine. Instead, pipes and other equipment could be fitted with sensors that could communicate key safety information to workers.

In a sophisticated system of safety sensors, workers would be less likely to be blindsided by dangerous conditions. Instead, the system could even potentially communicate alerts of dangerous conditions.

There is also the possibility that wearable technological tools could help humans interact with new streams of real-time data. This doesn't mean every worker would be Iron Man, the comic book hero with a suit of armor connected to an interactive computer. What it means, in simple terms, is that technology holds out the hope of much safer workplaces in the future compared to today.

Source: Wired, "Forget the Smart City . . . Start With the Smart Workplace," Chris Chasty, Nov. 1, 2013

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