By Dave Joyce, MD at Nimble Technologies
In the mining and construction industries, health and safety regulations must be adhered to at all times. There are strict requirements for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when entering certain areas of a mine or site, and if these requirements are not followed, lives are at stake. In addition, employers are held liable in the event of injury or death. Ensuring that employees are in possession of all required safety equipment at all times is paramount but has traditionally proven challenging to effectively enforce. RFID tags in all equipment, used in combination with intelligent locally developed software solutions, is the key to solving this challenge.
While the requirements for safety equipment in mines or on-site are clear, there has simply been no way to guarantee that individuals are adhering to these regulations. Workers know they need, for example, a hard hat to enter their workplace. If they have forgotten theirs, often might simply borrow a friend’s for the entry process and then give it back once inside. This equipment is necessary at all times, so such practices constitute a serious breach of health and safety regulations. The challenge for employers is that workers will enter areas without the correct equipment, get injured, and then sue the company for their injury. If the employer can prevent employees entering the workplace without all the required equipment this risk can be mitigated.
RFID systems offer the ideal solution. These tags can now be moulded directly into the soles of safety boots and into hard hats, or literally stuck on to other equipment. Each item will contain information in a database, including who the equipment was issued to and the date of issue. As each employee enters the turnstile to gain access to the mine, an RFID scanner will check the equipment they have on and if they are missing equipment or making use of an item that was not issued to them, and prevent access.
While RFID solutions are not new, they have typically not been cost effective. The hardware itself is not hugely expensive, yet is only useful with the right software behind it, and this has always been the greatest cost. Solutions have only been available from international vendors, increasing cost and limiting customisation ability. However, local solutions are now available that make RFID viable and hugely beneficial. They can be deployed quickly, often within a matter of weeks, and are cheaper and easier to support. In addition, solutions can be tailored according to unique requirements, and are hardware agnostic so can be made to work with the most appropriate hardware for any environment.
Using locally developed software that is customised and fit for purpose in the mining and construction sectors reduces the typically barrier to entry for RFID, which has always been the cost. In addition, it can be more easily supported and tailored for the needs of the African market, and the data can be modelled to fit requirements. RFID tagging on PPE can assist employers to bolster health and safety efforts, minimise the risk of injury or death, and also reduce liability.