Wireless Tech in Confined Spaces

Jamie Greene, Contributor

When you think about wireless connectivity, the first thing that comes to mind is the phone in your pocket or your laptop hooked up to an internet hotspot. This technology has been around since the turn of the century, but why aren’t we seeing it used on the job site? Having the ability to integrate new technology and new practices into your everyday workflow is what is going to catapult your company into the digital age. Wireless communication is coming to a lifesaving device near you—and it’s sure to make your site safer.

Taking this a step further, think about using this technology in confined spaces. The use of wireless communication technology for confined space entries could save lives. On average, 130 people die in confined spaces each year. There are many reasons confined spaces are the most dangerous part of a job site. One reason is the variations between the spaces. Confined spaces can be large, small and everything in between. They can contain physical entrapments and liquids; have limited entry points; and they can contain gases that can neither be seen nor smelled.

All of these factors combined create an unwelcoming work environment. Despite these variations, one thing remains constant: Wireless connectivity can keep you safe in these hazardous areas.

Wireless Connectivity Increases Safety in a Confined Space

Confined spaces differ from one site to the next. It’s important to remember that some connectivity may be better than others, depending on the depth or location of the confined space.

If you are using a connected gas detector in a confined space, you are being monitored by more than just your hole watch. When you use cellular or wi-fi connectivity on top of peer-to-peer connectivity, your hole watch has the ability to see real-time gas readings on their own monitor, and your data is transmitted to the cloud. Once the data is transmitted to the cloud, supervisors can receive real-time safety alerts via text or laptop. Both options can be the difference between getting rescue personnel to the confined space with the required information or someone blindly going in and falling victim themselves.

Types of Technology

Wireless connectivity in gas detectors allows you to relay critical information from within the confined space to workers outside. The connectivity method determines who receives the gas readings and alerts, so it’s important to understand the differences between the methods. At the same time, you need to consider the characteristics of your confined space to find the most reliable connectivity method.

Peer-to-Peer Connectivity:

Gas detectors using peer-to-peer connectivity can talk to each other in a local area and transmit alarms. Users can view gas readings, as well as see panic and man-down alarms for their peers working nearby. Having this peer-to-peer connectivity is beneficial for people working in teams to verify other alarms and make sure peers are not in distress. If a peer’s monitor goes into alarm, you can see whether the alarms are being caused by a gas hazard or another emergency—so you know the dangers before starting a rescue. This technology is critical for confined spaces, because it significantly reduces the risk of “would-be rescuer” fatalities.

Cellular Connectivity:

Cellular connectivity is a significant advancement for confined space monitoring, especially for mobile workers. When workers need to enter a confined space that’s off-site or in a remote corner of a facility, a cellular connection makes it easy to share gas readings and location data to the cloud and live monitoring software. This gives supervisors the ability to track worker safety in real time and dispatch help when needed. Knowing when workers need help, thanks to live monitoring alerts, is a major advantage. Being able to safely dispatch rescue personnel and communicate gas levels is crucial to a safe rescue—without putting more workers in danger.

While cellular connectivity makes it easy to use live monitoring software without adding site infrastructure, you first need to check that your confined space has cellular coverage. Extremely remote settings or confined spaces deep underground may not have an adequate signal.

Wi-fi Connectivity:

When working in a confined space, it’s key to stay in touch with the outside world. Similar to cellular connectivity, a gas detector with a wi-fi connection can drastically improve safety by connecting you with others in case of danger. The advantage of using wi-fi on your site is that you have greater control over connectivity coverage. In hard-to-cover areas, you can add wi-fi access points to ensure consistent connectivity across the site. This allows gas detectors to stay connected to cloud-based, live monitoring software and reliably transmit gas readings and alarms, so safety personnel have visibility into what hazards exist and so they can intervene in an emergency.

No matter the wireless connectivity method you choose for your gas detector, any kind of connection is a good one. Confined spaces on the job can have many unseen hazards, so you need to expect the unexpected. By maintaining wireless connectivity, you have gas detectors on which you can rely to alert about dangers and provide additional visibility to safety managers and peers.

This added layer of connectivity gives visibility into what gas workers encounter, which can lead to faster response times in an emergency. It also gives you the opportunity to be proactive when implementing safety improvements and eliminating potential hazards in the future. With a gas monitor that is transmitting data, you are a step ahead in keeping yourself and your co-workers safe in confined spaces. IHW

Jamie Greene is a Training Specialist at Industrial Scientific.

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