How wearable devices and sensors could make some of the most dangerous jobs safer

Triax Technologies uses IoT technology to improve construction site safety.

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It's no secret that construction work is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, so when a company like Triax Technologies says it can make construction sites safer using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, it's worth lending an ear. 

Using proprietary mesh network technology, Triax's Spot-r system connects wearable sensors, wall-mountable evac alarms, and equipment for heavy machinery to a cloud-based platform that can be monitored with a smartphone app.

The goal, Triax Technologies CEO Robert Costantini said, isn't to add another layer of complication to safety, but to change workplace safety culture. "We want to make each worker part of the safety team by making safety simple." 

SEE: Research: Why Industrial IoT deployments are on the rise  (TechRepublic Premium)

How Triax makes construction sites safer

The basis of Triax's Spot-r system is a small belt-worn device called the Spot-r Clip that each person on a job site wears. Each Clip is assigned to an individual, and along with being a motion sensor to detect falls, it can be coded to include a worker's certifications, track time in and time out, show who is on what floor, and more. 

The clips also have a single button that wearers can push to alert supervisors of trouble, and an audible alarm in the case of site evacuation.

Along with the Clip are equipment tags that show who is using heavy equipment (and alerts supervisors to unauthorized use), how much the equipment is being used, and who is in proximity to heavy machinery to ensure no one is at risk of injury.

The third component of the system are wall-mounted Evac Tags that sound an alarm and flash lights in the event of an evacuation emergency. 

All the data gathered by the Spot-r sensors is fed to a cloud-based dashboard and a mobile app that can monitor job sites remotely or on-premise, show a breadcrumb location history for each worker, print reports for inspection and compliance, and let supervisors know if someone is in need of help.

The Spot-r system, which has been available since 2017, has greatly increased site safety, Costantini said. "We've improved site evacuation times by 82%, and improved incident response time by 91%." 

Will Spot-r and similar products improve safety culture?

TechRepublic has written about IoT devices for construction safety before, and there is some skepticism surrounding the effectiveness of the devices: Will companies like Triax, and its competitors like WorkerSense just lead to more complacency and a belief that "if the system says it's good then it's fine?"

Costantini doesn't believe so, but he does acknowledge that IoT safety devices are only one part of the safety equation.

Spot-r, and products like it, "won't stop someone from falling off a roof, but they're a tool that requires active engagement with safety culture," he said. 

Triax's system has the ability to make worksites safer, and the statistics that Costantini gives (along with case studies from the company) show that it is working in many cases. 

Based on those statistics, businesses interested in making use of IoT workplace safety systems can see an improvement, and location/fall detection/certification tracking systems like Spot-r could likely make at least some difference with minimal employee engagement. 

Getting the most benefit from IoT safety equipment won't happen without effort, unfortunately: It requires a workplace committed to the safety of its workers, and creating that kind of culture takes time. Technology can make things easier, but it isn't a solution on its own.

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Image: iStockphoto/NatalyaBurova