Introductory guide to PPE and PPE detection

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a critical component of any safe and effective workplace. PPE provides employees with the necessary protection to ensure their safety while they are performing their duties...

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February 7, 2023
7 mins

PPE + PPE Detection: Why Is It Important?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a critical component of any safe and effective workplace. PPE provides employees with the necessary protection to ensure their safety while they are performing their duties.

PPE is fast becoming a major topic, especially in the past couple of years as more and more companies double down on making the workplace safer. However, there’s always the odd risk that an employee may not wear PPE while walking into a high-risk area.

It’s quite challenging to ensure that all workers are wearing PPE correctly and consistently. That’s why many companies are turning to automated PPE detection technology, a tool that uses sensors to detect when workers aren’t wearing the necessary safety gear.

In this guide, we’re going to discuss the importance of wearing PPE, and talk about the most effective tools for PPE detection in the workplace.

What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Personal protective equipment is any item that an employee wears or uses to prevent injury or illness while performing their job. It includes items such as: 

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Hard hats
  • Respirators
  • Face shields
  • Hearing protection devices
  • Reflective vests
  • Any other form of clothing or gear that’s designed to protect against specific hazards.

Depending on the type of work being performed and the environment in which it is performed, different types of PPE may be needed. 

For instance, on a construction site, workers are required to wear proper gloves, work pants, steel-toe boots, hard hats, and high-visibility vests. All of these are required to ensure the safety of workers on the construction site. 

OSHA states that the proper use of PPE can prevent up to 37.6% of occupational injuries or diseases. They also state that 12-14% of occupational injuries that result in total disability are due to employees not wearing proper PPE, which simply underlines how important PPE use is.

PPE use became all the more stringent due to the COVID-19 outbreak that led to the growth of the personal protective equipment market, which is expected to expand at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 6.7% up till 2030. 

Why is PPE Important?

The primary reason why PPE is important is that it can help protect workers from serious injury or death resulting from hazards such as exposure to toxic substances, falling objects, electrical shock, slips and falls, or being struck by heavy machinery. Wearing the proper PPE in hazardous situations reduces the risk of injury or illness and can even save lives. 

A secondary benefit of using PPE is that it can help reduce the amount of time lost due to injuries on the job. By making sure that workers are properly outfitted with the right type of gear for their tasks and providing them with adequate training on how to use their equipment correctly, EHS teams can ensure that their employees stay safe while carrying out their work duties without worrying about unnecessary delays due to preventable injuries or illnesses. 

Having a comprehensive PPE program in place can also provide your business with peace of mind knowing that you’re doing everything you possibly can to keep your employees safe while they’re onsite at work. 

It’s also important to note that having a well-defined plan for providing employees with quality safety gear is necessary for compliance with specific standards, such as OSHA or HSE guidelines. 

That’s why it's essential for EHS teams to regularly review their programs to make sure they are up to date with all applicable regulations and guidelines, while also taking critical steps to ensure workplace safety.

The Basics of PPE Detection

Wearing PPE in the workplace is critically important. Many organizations have clearly defined rules about the use of PPE, and they usually take measures to ensure employees wear PPE properly and consistently. 

PPE detection methods in the past haven’t been exactly successful. Conventionally, companies relied on using ethnographic approaches, with a safety officer inspecting each employee to ensure that they wore PPE before starting work. 

Needless to say, this isn’t a very effective method. There’s always a risk that the safety officers might miss someone, especially when operating as part of a larger team. 

It’s also very difficult for safety officers and EHS teams to constantly supervise employees on a site and ensure that they wear PPE throughout the course of their shift.

However, thanks to advancements in AI and the introduction of modern technologies like computer vision, PPE detection methods have evolved drastically. Before we talk about how modern PPE detection works, it’s important to understand the technology behind it. 

Computer Vision

Computer vision technology is a rapidly advancing field that has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with our environment. It uses computers to interpret and analyze images, enabling machines to make decisions based on visual data.

As you can expect, it plays a very important role in helping with PPE detection. Computer vision combines artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms with digital imaging techniques to enable computers to "see" and understand their environment in much the same way as a human would. 

This technology is capable of recognizing objects, classifying them, and understanding their meaning or context within an image. Computer vision can be used for various tasks, including image recognition, object detection, facial recognition, tracking motion and analyzing patterns.

With the help of computer vision, detection models can be ‘trained’ to identify and detect certain objects, such as hard hats, gloves, high-visibility vests, and other forms of PPE. 

EHS teams can use computer vision technology to improve safety in the workplace by quickly detecting potential hazards or risks that are otherwise difficult for humans to spot. 

For example, computer vision can be used to detect unsafe working conditions such as inadequate lighting or hazardous objects like spilled chemicals. 

The technology can also be used for real-time monitoring of equipment performance; helping EHS teams identify issues before they turn into dangerous situations. 

PPE Detection: How Does It Work?

AI-powered workplace safety solutions like Protex AI are capable of PPE detection, empowering organizations by freeing up resources and making it easier to monitor PPE usage on the work site. 

AI-powered PPE detection uses computer vision algorithms and machine learning models to scan for any missing or incomplete pieces of protective gear, such as hard hats, safety glasses, high-visibility vests, and other protective equipment. 

The technology can also be used to detect objects that may be hazardous in the workplace such as open electrical boxes or unsecured ladders. It works by scanning for objects within an environment and then analyzing them for specific characteristics. 

For example, if the system detects a hard hat within its field of view, it will then scan for other attributes such as color, shape and size in order to accurately identify it as a safety helmet. 

Once identified, the system can then track whether or not the helmet is being worn correctly on a person’s head or if it has been left behind on a surface somewhere. 

This same process applies for any other piece of PPE that you might require your employees to wear while working. Before deployment, the algorithm processes hundreds of thousands of images of personal protective equipment, ranging from hard hats to masks to vests. 

The system performs real-time analysis of video footage captured from cameras installed in the work environment and can detect when workers are not wearing the required safety gear or are wearing it incorrectly.

The more images that are fed into the algorithm, the more adept it becomes at recognizing similar shapes. Over time, it becomes smart enough that it’s capable of detecting PPE usage from a live video feed. 

The technology is highly efficient, and can be used to capture safety events and hazards from a live feed. These events are recorded, and can be viewed later by the safety teams to detect any evidence of non-compliance. 

The Importance of PPE Detection for Workplace Safety

The use of modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning have revolutionized PPE detection practices, and offer a variety of benefits as compared to conventional approaches. 

Reduced Risk of Human Error

One of the primary benefits of using AI for PPE detection is that it can help to reduce human error when it comes to enforcing protective equipment policies. 

With an automated system, employers can be assured that their workers are correctly wearing their required gear without having to manually inspect each employee for compliance. 

This reduces the need for supervisors and managers to constantly monitor employees for proper PPE use and frees them up to devote more time and energy towards other important tasks. 

Improved Safety Standards in the Workplace

A key benefit of using PPE detection technologies is that it helps employers ensure that all workers are following safety protocols and wearing the correct gear in hazardous environments. 

This helps employers create a safe work environment while reducing liability risks associated with non-compliance. By implementing automated systems, companies can increase their overall safety standards while minimizing potential risks associated with improper PPE usage.  

Ultimately, this results in less injuries caused by employees not wearing proper safety gear. As soon as the system detects a rule infringement, it can send a notification to the safety manager or to the person themselves, notifying them that they’re not wearing proper safety gear. 

Cost Savings

This can also help companies save money by reducing labor costs associated with manual monitoring and enforcement. 

Automated systems require less personnel involvement than traditional methods, which means fewer resources are needed to oversee compliance with safety regulations. 

This helps employers save money in terms of labor costs while still ensuring that their employees adhere to all necessary safety protocols.

Companies have to pay an upfront cost to deploy the system, which connects to the existing CCTV network in the organization. As more data is fed into the system, the more accurate it becomes, resulting in significant cost savings over time. 

Access to Safety Information 

Data-driven decision making is becoming increasingly important for EHS teams. Using AI workplace safety solutions allows management and EHS teams access to critical video evidence that they can use when making informed decisions. 

Companies can configure different safety rules, allowing them to understand their definition of risk. It also helps save organizations a significant amount of time and money on conducting intermittent audits, giving them access to important insights about the safety culture in the company. 

Use Protex AI for Accurate PPE Detection in the Workplace

Protex AI is a smart AI workplace safety solution that can be connected to existing CCTV networks in organizations of all sizes. Using artificial intelligence, the system is capable of detecting PPE usage in the workplace. The vision processing box can be customized for different safety rules, allowing EHS teams to quickly enforce safety in the workplace. 

There’s also the option of sharing certain safety events with stakeholders, while also adding documents, actions, or commentary. It can also be customized to enable automatic email workflows, making sure that EHS teams remain up to date with any safety-related events in the organization. 

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