New smart PPE system monitors workers’ heat stress and sweat rate

As summer advances in the Northern Hemisphere, a US company has launched wearable skin sensors that track workers’ heat susceptibility and sweat rate, sending alerts by phone to the worker and to a dashboard for site management.

The system developed by Minneapolis-based tech company Kenzen uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the person’s heat risk category by evaluating their medical or physical conditions, physical fitness, heat-acclimatization status, history of heat injury and illness, medications, chronic illnesses, and age.

Alerts tell managers when a worker is at risk, but doesn’t say why in order to protect personal information.

"This new feature tells managers which workers to monitor closely on hot days, and when and how to alter an individual’s schedule or workload," said Nicole Moyen, Kenzen’s vice president of research and development, in a press release.

Kenzen also has a new sweat rate monitoring feature that uses a worker’s information and physiological data to calculate and predict their sweat rate in litres per hour.

A manager can monitor a worker’s sweat rate on the dashboard, which also indicates how much water that person needs to drink each hour to stay hydrated, given the temperature.

A proprietary algorithm determine the person’s heat risk (Kenzen)

Kenzen says its proprietary sweat rate feature gives a hydration plan that is accurate to within 0.25l, about a cup of water.

"There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to hydration, which is why it’s important to use each person’s sweat rate for an individualised hydration plan," said Moyen.

"Dehydration is a major problem on worksites and increases the chances of someone getting a heat injury or illness, having an accident at the worksite, or suffering from cognitive impairment. Staying hydrated is a simple fix to avoid most of these problems."

Strapped to a worker’s arm or other skin surface, the devices contain sensors that monitor physiological responses in real time. The worker is warned when their core temperature is too high and they are in danger of a heat-related injury or illness via a smart phone app and a device vibration.

Managers have a corresponding app that alerts them when a worker needs an intervention to stop work, rest, and hydrate, and a second alert for when it’s safe to return to work.

Founded in 2016, Kenzen will offer packages of up to 50 devices for rent.

Top image: The management dashboard monitors individual and workforce sweat rates (Kenzen)

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