Safety Leader

Wearable Tech Could Prevent Work Accidents

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iStock/ Filo

A new technology is showing promise for improving warning signals on work sites. The October report, “Embedded Safety Communication System for Robust Hazard Perception of Individuals in Work Zones,” from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, sponsored by the Center for Construction Research and Training notes that workers often fail to perceive, be aware of, or sense warnings generated by hazard-detection systems. 

For example, after a period of time on a work site, many workers don't notice warning sounds such as backup beepers because they are so frequent, continuous and come from so many different directions. If a site is particularly noisy, workers may not even hear the warning.

To address these problems, researchers explored a tactile-based, wearable system designed to alert workers to previously identified potential hazards.

Researchers developed a prototype wearable unit called an embedded safety communication system (ESCS) that uses vibrating motors to send signals to workers wearing the units to alert them that heavy machinery is operating nearby and workers should become aware of its proximity. 

The researchers investigated the system configuration, created tactile communications to send hazard-related messages and conducted field tests to validate the effectiveness of the ESCS. 

“The test results indicate that the tactile signals transmitted with the ESCS prototype are capable of communicating potential hazards to workers, especially in harsh environments where workers’ innate sensing is limited,” the report said.

In addition, the report states, “distinct tactile signal units, based on three signal parameters (intensity, duration and delay)" could be used to send signals that communicate more information about the potential hazard.

Researchers estimated that, once the ESCS is available to be manufactured and sold, it could cost about $50.

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