The health and safety of your employees during the working day is a huge responsibility, but it’s imperative for the safety of your staff and the reputation of your business.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) – an acronym we are all bound to be familiar with this year given COVID-19 - achieves this, and it refers to clothing or equipment worn by those who face environmental hazards in the workplace. It encompasses a multitude of different items including safety helmets, gloves, earplugs, and harnesses. From nurses and construction workers to aircraft marshalls, PPE is used in a range of industries. Given its importance and today’s technological advancements, it only makes sense to apply some of that innovation to these items.

Enter smart PPE!

What is smart PPE?

Smart PPE is essentially PPE that connects to the internet and to other devices to provide live safety information to the wearer. Think of it as normal PPE containing tiny devices that, much like your phone, collect data and receive notifications.

How does it do this?

In most cases, smart PPE connects to other devices via Bluetooth, facilitating the transmission of data and the receipt of real-time alerts.

The benefits

  • Situations can be more accurately evaluated via the use of meta sensors in smart helmets, significantly enhancing their protective function
  • Smart eye protection offers access to sensor data, allowing its wearer to read the information via a display on the corner of the lens
  • Emergency stop devices such as a lockout/tagout system ensure the immediate stop of a machine when someone is in a vulnerable position and can prevent up to 50,000 equipment-related injuries per year (OSHA)
  • Intelligent workwear incorporating smart gesture control allows for the operation of devices via 3D gesture detection technology as opposed to touch. This is extremely useful in hazardous situations where the wearer could become contaminated if they have to remove their gloves to operate a device.

The downsides

No tech invention comes without its downsides and smart PPE is no exception. As with all things tech, and especially when integrating with life-saving PPE, it’s vital that it works all of the time. It also needs to be thoroughly tested as there is no room for error when a construction worker or firefighter’s life depends on a smart device.

The future of smart PPE

Many industries have introduced smart PPE in the workplace. Mining companies have adopted traceable clothing to ensure their miners don’t get lost (Australasian Mine Safety Journal, 2019). Firefighters can wear masks containing thermal cameras to see through smoke and flames. In the event of a hazardous situation or extreme temperatures, smart PPE clothing can alert the user to get out if needs be.

It’s impressive to see how technological advancements are being used to ensure the safety of workers in the most hazardous and life-threatening of events. PPE has brought tremendous value which will no doubt continue to increase with time as innovation continues.

Want more information on how to ensure employee protection and mitigate risks in the workplace? Build and customise your very own safety app with Zecure today.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration 2002. OSHA Fact Sheet. Available at: https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/factsheet-lockout-tagout.pdf

Australasian Mine Safety Journal, 2019. ‘Smart mining helmet sets to revolutionise safety in mining’. Available at: https://www.amsj.com.au/smart-mining-helmet-sets-to-revolutionise/