Wearable sensors can reduce workplace accidents

Published: 10 February 2017

To reduce workplace fatalities there is a need of methods that ensure good working environment. Researchers at Luleå University of Technology have examined how wearable sensors and information systems can help identify accident so that action can be taken early.

 – We have looked at the opportunities to use sensors to enhance safety for operators. Some industries are already trying out different solutions, but the development has just begun and there is still much to do, says Camilla Grane, researchers in Engineering Psychology at Luleå University of Technology.

Vision Zero for fatal accidents

The Swedish Government has a stated zero tolerance for workplace fatalities but still some occurs every year, especially within the industry. Various types of wireless sensors worn by the staff are used today, such as temperature or gas meters. But these systems rarely communicate with each other or send the information further.

– If a fire occurs one can imagine that a connected sensor sends information to all operators around so that they can move towards a rescue chamber, but also to a control room where someone can alert the emergency services. With the help of sensors, the emergency services know where the person is located and what equipment is needed there, she says.

Camilla Grane and Ulf Bodin, researcher in Mobile and Pervasive Computing, have looked at methods used within the health care. Monitoring to detect if elderly people fall could be used by staff in the industry.

– By combining multiple sensors, you can find a person who has fallen and find out if there is a dangerous gas at the site, says Camilla Grane.

The technology needs to be developed

Ulf Bodin says that support systems for portable sensors are not far away but more technological development is needed for them to win over other priorities within the companies.

– It is heading in this direction and solutions based on including positioning are already used. In our study, we have seen that the industry wants to be able to add multiple applications and functions on the same platform to obtain the desired benefits, says Ulf Bodin.

The applications can include fall sensors, sensors for vehicles to detect where people are located or sensors to warn when staff does not have the right equipment to do a job.

– Companies want to build all of these solutions on a common technology platform and add the fall sensors to an existing system, he says.

This technology also makes it possible to gather information on personal health status. But then you need to take into account aspects such as integrity and what really makes the working environment safer.

– That kind of aspects must be considered. Although you can measure someone's pulse, maybe it should just be measured in some context when it goes below a certain threshold, says Camilla Grane.

Examines the specific needs of the companies

In the study funded by VINNOVA, they have examined the needs of the industry and which solutions the technology allows today. But research needs to study more specifically how these systems could be developed to meet the needs of the industry. 

– We have worked with large industrial companies such as LKAB and ABB, and now we are discussing with other companies what their specific needs are. We want to continue the cooperation between the Engineering Psychology and Mobile and Pervasive Computing because it allows us to combine the two approaches to find better solutions, says Ulf Bodin.


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Ulf Bodin

Bodin, Ulf - Associate Professor

Organisation: Cyber-Physical Systems, Embedded Internet Systems Lab, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering
Phone: +46 (0)920 493036
Room: A3308 - Luleå»
Camilla Grane

Grane, Camilla - Senior Lecturer

Organisation: Engineering Psychology, Humans and Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences
Phone: +46 (0)920 492952
Room: A177 - Luleå»