19 Feb 2024 14 min


Last update 23 FEB 2024

Ensuring Confined Space Staff Safety with RTLS Systems

Navigine - Ensuring Confined Space Staff Safety with RTLS Systems
19 Feb 2024 14 min


Last update 23 FEB 2024

Img Source - Unblast

Worker safety is at risk in the confined spaces of factories, where limited access and poor ventilation pose significant hazards. In these environments, it’s critical to take effective measures to protect staff from potential emergencies and health complications Real-time location systems (RTLS) can help achieve these goals and keep staff safe when working within confined spaces. In this article, we’ll discuss what confined space monitoring is and how it works.

What is a confined space and what dangers does it pose to workers?

Confined spaces are areas large enough for full-scale work but are hindered by restricted entrances and exits, often lacking adequate ventilation. They often need better air ventilation and are usually not intended for permanent occupancy by workers. Confined spaces also mean places where serious injury can occur due to a variety of factors.

Research shows that to maintain human life, there must be a concentration of at least 21% oxygen in a room.This tends to decrease in enclosed spaces. A decrease in oxygen volumes may be due to heating or its displacement by other gasses. If the concentration drops to 12-16%, one may notice increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and poor movement coordination. At the 6-10% mark, loss of consciousness and even death may occur. Some other dangers in confined spaces may include:

  • live electrical wires;
  • air overheating, heat stress;
  • open mechanisms and equipment;
  • the presence of methane, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide.

The hazards outlined are prevalent across numerous industries. For example, in the oil and gas industry, confined spaces are hatches in heat exchangers, bunkers, tanks, and various storage facilities. This category also includes silos, pipelines, and large equipment. In construction, confined spaces include hatches, tanks, and basements, and in the mining industry, they are represented by tunnels, pits, and air ducts.

Confined spaces are classified as high-risk areas for staff, and therefore require strict adherence to safety rules and permits from regulatory authorities. Statistical data reveals,about 90 people die every year when working in confined spaces in the United States alone. For this reason, businesses are constantly looking for new ways to protect people and are trying to implement modern RTLS solutions into their infrastructure.

The importance of staff safety and monitoring

RTLS systems include a set of algorithms and equipment that allow you to position a worker in real time and control their movements around the facility, as well as record entry and exit from hazardous areas. Tracking software and smart helmets or badges are used specifically for these purposes as tags that send radio pulses at certain intervals. The signals each contain a unique identifier that allows the system to accurately determine a person’s location.

Information from the sensors is captured by reading devices and transmitted to the server, where it’s processed and sent to the user’s smartphone or computer with pre-installed software. You can see a person’s movement, including in hard-to-reach places, on a digital map. If needed, the system allows you to divide a confined space into zones and distribute access opportunities for each employee to a particular area.

Benefits of tracking workers inside confined spaces

Monitoring confined spaces with RTLS technology offers numerous benefits, enhancing safety and operational efficiency. When implemented, it can increase staff safety, create appropriate labor protection conditions, and improve communication between the dispatcher and workers.

Increased staff safety

Using a confined space monitoring system based on indoor tracking makes work much safer. It can be used to increase awareness of the current situation in confined spaces and develop heat maps of staff movement that provide more effective control of each person.

Additionally, the platform can be used to prevent unauthorized entry into confined spaces. With it, it’s easier for the management to set limited access for certain zones, so they can be sure that only employees with permits and appropriate qualifications enter these places.

Real-time tracking

Through the confined space monitoring system, you can monitor the entrances and exits of workers from confined spaces in real time. Badges or smart helmets allow you to synchronize the actions of employees and provide users with the following data:

  • room occupancy;
  • the duration of the employee's stay inside;
  • entry/exit time;
  • state of the internal environment.

The technology significantly improves visibility and helps the management instantly determine where a particular employee is currently located. Thanks to this, you can not only improve confined space staff safety but also ensure more effective staff management.

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Improved communication between workers and dispatchers

Using a tracking platform is an opportunity to improve interaction between the dispatcher and staff, especially in an emergency. Communication is provided through smartphones, to which push messages with relevant information can be sent. This way, operators can send notifications to employees about an emergency or the need to leave a confined space.

If an accident occurs inside a confined space, staff can use the panic button and send an SOS message to security or managers. The SOS system makes it easy to find the nearest security staff and direct them to the area from which the signal came.

Data-driven security analysis

The platform provides the management with useful analytics regarding staff movement and entry into confined spaces. Managers receive data with the history of staff movements, time spent inside a confined space, and other information that helps optimize work processes and quickly respond to emergencies. All data is stored in the system, which eliminates the need for maintaining paper reports.

Compliance with safety regulations

Through this technology, improved safety compliance can be achieved. Workers are well aware that the system controls all their movements, so they work with strict adherence to the rules. This approach increases labor discipline, improves employee safety, and allows for immediate response to violations of work processes.

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Requirements to implement a tracking system

A tracking system in confined spaces is a web service based on RTLS technologies (most often Bluetooth® LE or UWB), which allow you to determine the location of objects with an accuracy of several ft. To implement it into the business infrastructure, the following is required:

  • wearable equipment that fits onto staff clothing or helmets;
  • stationary devices for transmitting information to the server;
  • software for working with data coming from the equipment.

Navigine is ready to help with implementing this system and organizing effective tracking of workers inside a confined space. Customers are provided with a modern tracking platform that helps the management track the location of workers, monitor air parameters, and instantly learn about emergencies. To get more detailed information on the system, contact us using the feedback form on our website or by booking an online demo call:

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