Industrial facilities are churning out products that help keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but do these facilities have what they need to keep their own essential personnel safe when there’s increased pressure for higher production?
Workforce access to medicine, masks and disinfectants should be easier for manufacturers of these essential items, especially compared to the general public (who are often still waiting on the grocery store shelves to be stocked). However, there are other protective measures that can be introduced at industrial sites to mitigate viruses, and plant management should also consider the following questions with the health and safety of employees in mind:
Do we have what is needed to monitor and validate the protective measures taken to prevent the spread of viruses among our workforce?
How do we quickly and effectively respond if a potential or confirmed case of COVID-19 is reported by our front-line workers?
If the spread of any virus isn’t quickly contained, these facilities are at risk of shutting down operations due to skilled personnel being unable to safely attend work. I suspect if this does happen, the supermarket shelves will remain sparse for much longer.
As the world is starting to reopen businesses, these facilities desperately need the capabilities to validate that COVID-19 or any other virus is not present, detect ASAP if an employee is infected and take action to quarantine the potentially infected workers that were in close contact with any infected individual for the past 14 days! This is what Situational Awareness is all about. This raises more questions for plant management, again with the health and safety of personnel in mind:
How can we validate that an employee potentially infected with a virus hasn’t entered our facilities?
How can we detect early warning signs that an employee working inside our facilities could be infected with a virus?
With the shortage of COVID-19 testing kits, testing every worker every day isn’t currently feasible. Health screening at the start of shifts is one of the most common validations that an individual is not likely to be infected with a virus. If industrial sites were to adopt biometric sensors for continuous measurement of worker body temperatures, it would strengthen overall Situational Awareness in terms of virus detection.
Using these biometric sensors, plant management could be notified when body temperatures rise above a maximum threshold, which is very similar to how plants monitor equipment today with automation and control systems. Post-COVID 19 there would still be benefits from this investment, as this data would be helpful for potential heat exhaustion detection when employees are working in hot weather or to allow for the early detection of other potentially contagious illnesses. Another challenging question for plant management to seriously consider is:
How do we take action to prevent the spread of the virus when it has potentially been exposed to an entire shift crew?
When protective measures such as social distancing and regular sanitization are in place, contact tracing of other potentially infected workers is needed. If a facility’s production capability is at risk due to a virus outbreak, relying on social distancing and regular sanitization without contact tracing and geospatial zone management could quickly escalate into halted production and an ill workforce.
Worker location intelligence when they’re on shift could dramatically reduce the risk of having a virus outbreak. Social distancing could be monitored in real-time with violations logged and escalated to plant management. Contact tracing could be easily analyzed by replaying personnel interactions with plant areas and equipment, colleagues, unsanitized zones, etc.
With biometric data, location information and an IIoT platform, plant management can mitigate COVID-19 and protect their valuable front-line workers. Here is a short video demonstrating that this is possible with Hexagon’s Luciad and Xalt | Mobility solutions.
Visit Hexagon’s Situational Awareness web page to download our Solution Sheet, which describes how Situational Awareness can provide value for your business and your front-line workers post COVID-19, not just during this terrible pandemic. You can also contact one of our Industry Consultants to discuss further or subscribe to our Operations and Maintenance Mailing List to receive regular updates about our Situational Awareness solution.
Enjoy and stay healthy!
Jaclyn studied chemical engineering at Auburn University and proceeded to work over 10 years in fast, demanding operation and maintenance environments assuring risk reduction and production optimization. Her operational experience is influenced by devoting her time to helping operators, leading continuous improvement teams, driving optimization plans, participating in process hazard analyses, designing projects, and implementing process safety management processes. Passionate about processes, she turns to Lean Six Sigma methodologies and technology to modernize how work is performed inside operating facilities.
Jaclyn joined Hexagon PPM in 2015 and is currently Vice President of Owner Operator, providing thought leadership to innovate industrial facilities. She works at company headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, USA.