Though safety has made strides over the past decades, there’s still plenty to be done to protect industrial workers—especially from their own behavior. As part of the range of additions to its Plantweb digital ecosystem introduced at the last Emerson Global Users Exchange this past fall, Location Awareness makes use of Emerson’s wireless foundation to better protect employees at refineries, chemical plants, and oil and gas platforms.
“Accidents are still going to happen. People are going to trip, fall, slip, or come into contact with hazardous substances,” noted Amanda Alexander, global product manager for Emerson Automation Solutions, during the product’s introduction at Emerson Exchange 2018. “With the location information on personnel and emergency responders, we now have the latest data and can respond accordingly.”
The technology could help reduce common personnel-recordable incidents by more than 70 percent, Alexander noted. During safety mustering or man-down events, managers can get a snapshot of employee locations through rechargeable wearable tags. In an emergency, they can quickly account for employees’ locations in the plant or facility and act to ensure safety.
Like Plantweb itself, which was first launched in 2016, Location Awareness is built on the wireless foundation that Emerson has been cultivating for more than a decade. It’s the first personnel safety technology powered by the WirelessHART infrastructure, leveraging the secure standard already adopted in tens of thousands of plants and facilities.
The market has needed an affordable, accurate location system, Alexander said, pointing to previous location technologies such as GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Lowe Energy (BLE) and RFID. “Unfortunately, installation was often difficult, expensive and time-consuming because conduit and wires were needed for power and connectivity,” she said. WirelessHART “brings installation time down from months to days. It’s very easy to install; one person could do it.”
The new technology will help bring new levels of safety to manufacturing workers, said Lal Karsanbhai, executive president of Emerson Automation Solutions. “We know that installation complexity has been a major roadblock to sites considering similar solutions,” he said. “With its fast, simple installation, Location Awareness is making it easier than ever before to implement a best-in-class safety system to protect employees.”
The Location Awareness system combines a new software application in Emerson’s Plantweb Insight suite with gateways, access points, location anchors, and personnel tags certified for hazardous conditions. Alexander described three different use cases that the system could be used for:
- Safety mustering. A company can set muster points throughout its facility. In the event of an emergency or even a drill, personnel will start safety mustering. “If somebody doesn’t make it to muster point, an alarm gets sent to you,” Alexander explained.
- Man-down alerts. “On the tag, there’s a button you can push if you’ve fallen down and need help,” Alexander said. “Managers can quickly dispatch emergency responders to the person that’s asked for help.”
- Geofencing and monitoring. The system can be used with contractors in the facility—from 10 workers to thousands, Alexander said. “You can create an area that they can or cannot be in and then make sure they don’t cross those barriers,” she explained. “You can also create zones of known hazardous areas in your facility,” keeping out employees who are not properly trained for those areas.