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Using assisted reality to maximise safety and worker productivity

Author : Jon Arnold, VP of Sales, EMEA, RealWear

04 August 2021

According to the HSE, 142 workers were killed in work accidents in the UK in 2020/2021. Such a sobering statistic is another reminder for organisations across all industries to continue to focus on health and safety measures in the workplace. Increasingly, organisations are looking for ‘fit for purpose’ technology to enhance worker safety and productivity.

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In this article, Jon Arnold, VP of Sales, EMEA, RealWear, Inc. explains how to get the most out of your assisted reality wearable deployment.

One trend is the deployment of assisted reality wearable solutions. The best of these solutions are designed as “reality-first, digital-second” in nature. Unlike immersive VR or AR headsets, the notion is that Assisted Reality is not digitally immersive for the user, to allow full awareness for the frontline worker, whilst still providing proper guidance. Assisted reality was developed for workers to be more efficient and productive whilst maintaining situational awareness. The technology enables workers to view content on a micro-display. Digital information is displayed in the worker’s peripheral line of sight without compromising their vision.

It’s no surprise then that wearable technology can be fundamental to job safety, and that’s just as well given that field and on-premise engineers around the world face challenges every day. They must stay alert to the performance of countless systems while navigating complex and often dangerous environments, while also processing information and procedures for repairing, maintaining or assessing equipment. Therefore, technological solutions, like wearables, need to be designed to complement and support workers at hazardous worksites. Hands-free, voice-controlled wearable technology enables real-time collaboration, inspection, extended learning, rapid response and potential for step-change improvements in personal and process safety. Additionally, they need to hold up to the rigors of frontline work if they are to empower workers, and – most importantly – help workers stay safe.

Assisted Reality wearables extend safety and risk management to the edges of the organisation where hazardous work is performed. However, it’s important to ensure that the technology is being used properly for it to be fully effective. It’s vital that those who use the technology are well-trained in best practice by the suppliers and experts. Below, we outline some key points for frontline workers within hazardous areas that are currently using wearable technology or considering using it in the future.

Mitigate risk

First, mitigating risk from dropped objects is particularly key. Ensuring that your device is securely attached to your PPE is basic step number one. Often an assisted reality wearable device will come shipped with clips that work directly with the PPE that workers are using on site. Secondly, securely fasten your device to your head using a chin strap. You can also get a drops lanyard that will fasten onto your wearable device and directly onto your helmet, ensuring that if all other risk mitigation measures fail, you have a third and final method of ensuring that your workers are wearing the device safely. It’s imperative that wearables are properly fitted to the protective equipment that you would wear in your everyday job.

Noisy environments

Significant advancements in noise cancellation technology mean that assisted reality can be highly effective and perform well in loud or noisy work environments, which many high-hazard industries are. It is of course important though to wear hearing protection so that your hearing doesn't degrade overtime. It’s likely that your device won’t be compatible with traditional hearing protection that clips onto the side of a hard hat. As a solution, use over-brim clips so that your device is above the helmet – allowing for room for your ears below. Mounting a device above the brim frees up space for behind-the-neck hearing protection. Using this type of ear protection with a wearable device enables workers to work in louder noise environments with the confidence that their hearing is protected.

Using the viewfinder on your wearable device

When you have your wearable device on and you don’t necessarily need to be looking into the display – or you’re in motion or movement and need to make sure that the viewfinder is out of the way – it’s important to note that there is a right way to do it. In RealWear’s case, for example, this would be to take the boom arm and flip it underneath the device. By doing it this way you don’t have any way for it to get hooked on to anything. The wrong way to do it would be to push the boom arm out to the side – which could yank the device off your head.

Using Assisted Reality to train employees

Proper training is the top priority in hazardous work environments. Poor training can increase the risk of severe injury or death, and the best safety practices are useless unless the worker can properly identify or understand the risks. Assisted reality gives enterprise companies an easy way to complement classroom learning with ongoing reinforcement in the field. This highlights one of the key benefits of wearable devices: they can reduce training time and improve overall profitability.

For training purposes, assisted reality enables workers in the field to get assistance from experienced technicians via an enhanced two-way video call experience, where the expert can remotely see and hear from the worker’s point of view. One of the biggest advantages is its flexibility. The pandemic response of travel restrictions and social distancing has allowed organisations to continue to onboard or train their employees.

Jon Arnold, VP of Sales, EMEA, RealWear
Jon Arnold, VP of Sales, EMEA, RealWear

However, it’s important to note that when training employees remotely this will differ from the physical experience - which has been the de facto up until now for heavily regulated work environments.

Getting the most out of an assisted reality technology deployment is imperative for organisations looking to protect personnel in hazardous environments. By ensuring that best practices are followed, frontline workers can ensure that they’re as safe as possible whilst performing their jobs.

About the author:

Jon Arnold VP of Sales, EMEA at RealWear, is an accomplished IT professional, having worked in the industry for the majority of his career. He is a veteran of six previous start-ups including Riverbed that successfully became public in 2007. Simplivity, that was acquired by HPE, Viptela, acquired by Cisco and VeloCloud, acquired by VMware. Jon has demonstrated proven success in leading and growing RealWear’s European presence by formulating a channel strategy that has seen RealWear attract new distributor and reseller partners globally.

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