One hundred years ago, Douglas Starch Works erupted like a powder keg, shaking the city of Cedar Rapids so violently some thought the Germans were bombing America’s heartland. Forty-three workers from the evening shift died that May evening, though new plant worker John Griffin was miraculously spared, as he decided to walk
back to his nearby home for supper. For him, it was a near miss, though he would have
to live with the memory of pulling his coworkers’ bodies from the smoldering rubble.
Roughly 50 employees suffer fatal injuries at work annually in Iowa, or almost one
per week. In 2017, the Bureau
of Labor Statistics tallied the
total U.S. number at 5,147.
Globally, 2. 3 million die a year,
or 6,000 a day, according to the
International Labour Organization. But no one can really tell
how many near misses there
are, how many times someone
courts tragedy and instead of
slipping in a puddle and falling down the steel stairwell,
merely loses their balance.
Few are inclined to report an
“almost” bad thing unless they
just avoided a horrific event like
a plane crash or factory explosion. That’s an excellent conversation starter. Conversely,
pedestrian near-misses carry
a stigma—and negative consequences, notes Charles Douros, senior consultant for ProAct Safety.
In a piece he wrote for our sister brand EHS Today about near-misses (which OSHA
defines as “an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage—but
had the potential to do so”), Douros writes “if it occurred because someone ignored
or neglected a safety procedure, there might be a reluctance to report it for fear of
reprisal. It’s essentially a lagging indicator—something bad has already happened and
now the company is forced to react to it.”
It’s bad business to be reactive. You should always strive to be the one who knocks,
Today, there are not many data-forward solutions to help plant managers avoid near-
misses, let alone injury. But Ga-
briel Glynn, the great-grandson of
John Griffin, is set to change all
that. The Des Moines-based com-
pany he co-founded, MākuSafe
provides workers with a sen-
sor-stuffed wearable device worn
above the elbow that collects all
sorts of vital environmental data,
from noise to light to temperature.
The data are then transmitted
to the charging kiosk/edge de-
vice, which then sends the info
to the cloud. This is where the
MākuSmart software correlates
location and environmental data,
combing through real-time sensor
data to find anomalies and po-
tential dangers. Over time, with
enough training of the software to
recognize a company’s cadence,
the system promises to identify dangers and OSHA violations before they happen.
The device is in five facilities now and will be available Q1 of 2020, at a cost of about
$22/month per device. The battery life is about 24 hours, so two workers can use it in the
same day. The national worker’s comp bill per month is almost $5 billion, so it's a good deal.
We’re in the throes of the IIo T revolution, so plants and other facilities probably have sensors abounding, though they can be mounted on walls hundreds of feet away from the action.
“In a matter of a few feet, the environment can be totally different,” Glynn says. “Depending
on what side of the machine you stand on, the sound exposure can be dramatically different.”
By John Hitch
When it comes to environmental plant hazards, the new sensor-laden MākuSafe wearable
safety device ensures you won’t miss a thing.
MākuSafe's wearable device is worn on the arm and picks up environmental data, including temperature and noise, to
ensure the facility is safe and comfortable for workers. And if it isn't, safety managers can act on the real-time data and
analytics to make changes on the fly.