Embedding safety tracking technology to protect on site personnel

The SuperSafe and UltraSafe industrial safety helmets have been developed by Design Futures in collaboration with Draws International, and partners S3 ID and Norham Plastics.

Safety helmets are vital in protecting personnel on site and in many workplaces and industries they are required to be worn at all times. As well as the need to meet the minimum requirements of the relevant standards, the project partners identified two core themes to improve helmet safety by embedding electronic tracking technologies.

The first theme focuses on monitoring and recording the general condition of helmets. Helmets have a limited defined life span of three years, or less if damaged. Many companies and personnel omit to check the age and condition of their helmets resulting in many wearers using helmets that are beyond their intended service life. The use of passive RFID tags in the helmets in conjunction with RFID readers aids the recording of visual condition inspections and highlights helmets that have reached their service life limit. The helmet ID, issue date and inspection dates are logged automatically.

The second theme relates to monitoring personnel working in hostile environments. By designing the facility to attach a compact real time tracking tag permanently to a helmet, companies can track personnel in challenging industrial environments. Motion sensors are also incorporated in the system that can issue an alert should a worker become motionless due to an accident.

The helmet had to meet the requirements of EN BS 397 the European standard for industrial safety helmets. Mandatory requirements include shock absorption, resistance to impact and flame resistance as well as spatial requirements. The helmet meets all mandatory requirements plus additional optional requirements of lateral deformation, low temperature (-30°C), 440VAC current leakage and molten metal splash.

Once the requirements of the standard had been established, 3D CAD models of head forms, potential components and the spatial envelopes of the helmet shell were built. These were developed to produce various visual concepts that could potentially meet the needs of the standard. Responses from user groups helped to identify strong concepts to develop further. The designs were developed, using 3D rapid prototyping (Fused Deposition Modelling - FDM*). These models enabled visual and spatial aspects of the helmet to be checked by a group of individuals with a range of head sizes. It is essential that the helmet can be worn for extended periods in diverse weather conditions and that the helmet and tracking tag enclosure does not restrict the movements of users. A provision for third party accessories such as ear defenders was also incorporated into the design.