If they can’t stand the heat, get a drone

If they can’t stand the heat, get a drone

Could technology ensure that employees aren’t overly exposed to physical climate risks as the world grows warmer?

The independent research and advisory firm Verdantix, which is based in London, warns that climate change is placing people at a greater risk of occupational heat exposure. Employers need to develop plans to manage this risk.

“This summer, across Europe, we have seen extreme record-breaking heatwaves and the devastation these have brought. Field workers and those exposed to heat risks face increased dangers during these unprecedented times. However, employers have a duty of care towards their staff to ensure they are not at risk of suffering from occupational heat exposure,” says Bill Pennington, research director of environment, health, and safety at Verdantix.

“In the US alone, at least 384 workers have died from environmental heat exposure in the last decade, and the three-year average of worker heat deaths in the country has doubled since the early 1990s,” he continues.

While extreme weather is a variable that environmental, health, and safety (EHS) functions cannot control, a hierarchy of technology-enabled mitigation solutions can be implemented to curb their impact. These include:

Critical event management software with weather decision technologies

This software allows firms to assess the risk of weather events, locate at-risk individuals, and act appropriately based on pre-defined processes. For example, Everbridge, a critical event management software provider, offers a SMARTWeather alerting system that uses weather decision technologies to automate location-specific severe weather alerts. 

Wearable devices to track exposure

For individuals conducting manual work, the use of sensors can help track and monitor worker heat exposure in real-time. Consider Kenzen, a climate technology and heat science solution provider, which uses wearable devices to measure core temperature, worker microclimate, and sweat rate, amongst other vital signs.

EHS software to support the management of worker exposure, alerts, and training

EHS management systems can provide an overview of worker activities and issue alerts when weather conditions surpass risk thresholds. Finally, an in-built learning management system and training solution will help to ensure that workers are following hot weather working practices.

Robotics to eliminate the risk of heat exposure at their source

Robotics solutions such as drones can be used to gather sampling data on factors including air quality, noise, and pollutants. Drones can also perform inspections in remote locations to reduce worker exposure to the elements.

“Going forward, demand for solutions that support EHS functions in navigating physical climate risks will increase,” highlights Verdantix analyst Christopher Sayers. “This is due to the rising prevalence of extreme weather events and employers assuming greater responsibility for worker safety in relation to heat stress and other factors. Organisations will need to be prepared – both through processes and technology – for a range of new physical climate risks,” he notes.

“Climate-related extremes have caused €14,5 billion in financial losses in Europe per year since 2011, and this will continue to increase, with droughts alone set to cause €12 billion in annual losses if global warming is limited to 1,5 °C,” adds Kim Knickle, Verdantix’s environmental, social, and governance and sustainability research director. “Firms must react to these increasingly costly climate events and improve their climate resilience. By investing in digital solutions, firms can evaluate and manage the climate risk exposure of their physical assets and investments, which should include assessing mitigating actions and transition plans.”

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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