The New List of Safety PPE for Modern, Frontline Workers
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
This blog was written for RealWear.com
Safety Technology is Transforming Work. And it’s a No-brainer. As the industrial sector evolves with its drive to Industry 4.0 and digital transformation, so has the required safety gear for a modern frontline worker.
Required PPE in industrial settings may include steel-toed boots, over-the-ear hearing protection, work gloves, eye protection, and safety helmets. These are some of the basic pieces of equipment that frontline workers wear to protect themselves from harm and remain safety-compliant. These tried and true safety measures have decades of data backing up the importance of their use. For example, a whopping 70.9% of hand and arm injuries are potentially preventable with the right PPE, such as work gloves. In short, PPE can prevent injuries and save lives.
Let’s add to the mix – safety technology or safety tech. Modern safety wear is a cross between PPE and cutting-edge technology. In addition to its safety benefits, it saves businesses time and money while engaging, empowering, and elevating the frontline worker in brand new ways. This is especially important during the current frustrating skills gap and the Great Resignation happening as we speak.
New Must-Have Safety Equipment Has Arrived. Safety Tech. The fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is finally here thanks to the convergence of forces (IIoT, XR, travel restrictions from COVID-19, and AI, to name a few).
The modern, connected worker now has access to hands-free Assisted Reality devices. This XR technology has started to add digital to the physical, world for frontline workers, sometimes for the first time. These ruggedized digital tools can instantly connect people to their teams via hands-free, safety-first video calls. They can also provide access to real-time data, take hands-free photos or videos, and so much more—instant access to information and expertise, anytime, anywhere.
In other words, the traditional workwear of the past, such as hardhats and gloves, was created primarily to prevent injuries and mitigate risk. The new standard workwear of the present enhances safety and boosts productivity. While this is not a new idea (think about what a professional athlete must wear to enhance their performance while maximizing safety!), it is now even more applicable to the modern industrial worker. In addition to the safety benefit, they can also drastically decrease the need for their employer to spend extra money on sending a subject matter expert to the site for assistance.
Here are a few items of standard safety gear and their “smart” improvements:
What it’s been: Due to loud tools and machinery that often are the norm on job sites, earplugs or over-the-ear hearing protection are essential for protecting workers’ ears from permanent hearing damage.
Where it’s going: Pro Buds, which allow in-ear hearing protection for intrinsically safe zones while still hearing remote collaboration video calls or controlling the device with your voice.
Adding in Assisted Reality: Look for devices such as RealWear Navigator™ 500 voice-controlled wearable devices with high performance even in extremely loud environments.
What it’s been: Having both hands covered and protected is essential because a worker could touch a moving part, something sharp, hot, heavy or rusty at any given moment. These hazards could cause burns, cuts, absorption of chemical substances, or even electrocution.
Where it’s going: RealWear customer, Honeywell, equips their workers with ‘connected-ready’ electrical safety gloves. This embedded tracking technology ensures their electrical workers have the right certified gloves protecting them should they grab a high-voltage wire. At the same time, they also help utilities improve efficiency through simpler and faster records management, inventory control, and forecasting ability.
Adding in Assisted Reality: However, to use a handheld device, a tethered smart glass, or even flip through a paper document, a worker must remove their gloves which can lead to any of the dangers mentioned above. Therefore, a voice-controlled head-mounted device like RealWear Navigator™ 500 is a wiser and more prudent option so that hands can be protected and free to work.
What it’s been: Steel-toed work boots protect workers’ feet from falling objects, prevent slipping and falls, and stop sharp objects from piercing the foot. For optimal protection, they should have slip-resistant soles and a steel toe. It could reduce the chance of an amputated toe or worse.
Where it’s going: Work boots will go the extra mile to keep workers safe. The SmartBoots by SolePower are capable of detecting pressure to prevent falls or small shocks and can call for help automatically and report the worker’s exact location.
Adding in Assisted Reality: When searching for a head-worn device, find one with a movable display (to flip up when not needed) secured to the worker to prevent the device from falling and harming the worker.
What it’s been: A water and dust-proof watch is helpful for a worker to keep track of time on their shift and be on time for specific projects.
Where it’s going: Smartwatches, such as FitBit, have become common for people to wear in everyday life. Now, modern workers can utilize a wearable watch to monitor their vital signs like heart rate and step count and abnormal heart rhythms or blood oxygen saturation to spot respiratory distress. Falls are a significant cause of injury on a worksite, and a smartwatch can immediately contact emergency personnel to speed up response times. Additionally, wristbands like Moodbeam can track workers’ mental health throughout the day and report it to their managers.
What it’s been: Eyes can be at risk of chemical elements, material shards, flying objects, dust, rain, fire sparks, etc. Protecting workers’ eyesight is critical. Goggles, safety glasses, and shields should be carefully cleaned and disinfected after each use.
Adding in Assisted Reality: When considering head-worn wearable, such as the RealWear Navigator™ 500, purpose-built and compatible with PPE safety glasses. Remember, not all head-worn devices are created equal, and regular smart glasses aren’t made for the frontline.
What it’s been: Moving objects, falling tools, low beams, and many other hazards are common at worksites, making a hard helmet essential PPE.
Where it’s going: You would think smart helmets are the future, but they are heavy, overheat and aren’t compatible globally or in specific work sites. This is where assisted realities shines. Instead of occupying your hands with a phone or tablet, find a head-mounted Assisted Reality device like RealWear Navigator™ 500 that clips onto your standard-issue hard hat. Free your hands and keep your gloves rather than taking your gloves off to use a touchscreen and losing your balance. It’s a no-brainer.
It is critical for industries such as oil and gas drilling rigs, pipelines, refineries, chemical plants, and flour and textile mills to use Class 1 Division 1 and ATEX & IECEx Zone 1 intrinsically certified devices. This means the electronics present no ignition risk in normal routine operations where potentially explosive atmospheres exist. The RealWear HMT-1Z1® model is compliant for these environments, including electric car battery servicing. It can also be used in wet, muddy, and loud industrial environments just like RealWear Navigator™ 500.
Should Standard PPE Include Safety Tech? All of the safety wear listed above is becoming more and more common to stay productive and to retain your frontline workers who have become extremely savvy with digital tools, and expect it in order to stay engaged in your frontline operations. The modern connected worker has access to the standard workwear for each industry plus Assisted Reality via a ruggedized wearable device. Compared to alternatives, according to VDC Insights, RealWear is 4x less likely to fail, 70% lower cost than non-rugged smartphones, and 44% lower cost than the total cost of ownership of a ruggedized handheld computer.
All of the below are features possible only on the RealWear family of assisted reality products with the right software:
Remote Expert Guidance: It connects the global workforce and enables frontline workers to get assistance from an expert remotely to resolve any complex issue. Learn more
Digital Workflow: Operational errors are reduced with step-by-step visual instructions, checklists, and data entry on-the-go. Learn more.
Visual Assist: Hands-free verification and visual documentation with a high-definition camera to take photos and videos of hard-to-reach places. Learn more.
Industrial IoT Data (IIOT): Workers get real-time data that they need when operating, inspecting, or maintaining equipment. Learn more.
Document Navigator: More productivity and safety by viewing technical manuals and reference documents with eyes forward and hands-free improve productivity and safety. Learn more.
The above can save a company tremendous amounts of money, from using remote collaboration to fix a problem in minutes compared to hours or even days to drastically cutting back on employee travel expenses thanks to visual assistance. Our customers found that training time was cut up to 50%, damage assessment time was reduced by 3-6 hours, and data accuracy improved by 50%. View the full report here.
“By using RealWear wearable tablet devices, we can cut our travel costs in half and, at the same time, gain efficiency since our employees no longer have to wait around all day for a specific task.” – Honeywell “After evaluating other wearable devices, RealWear and Microsoft Teams emerged as the best option to support our ongoing commitment to autonomous maintenance and keeping our first line teams safe and productive.” – Mars Petcare Even though frontline workers are the backbone of business driving our world forward, for too long they have been left in the dust by technology and innovation. Fast-forward to today, digital transformation is rapidly sweeping across industries and connecting workers. The front office has access to game-changing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, AMA, and Librestream––now, the frontline worker can be connected, anytime, anywhere.
Join the connected frontline worker movement.
Examples of RealWear in the real world of the modern, safety-first worker: