Bringing Workers in From the Cold

Meatpacking plants across the US have become hotbeds for the novel coronavirus, with thousands of workers testing positive according to reports. The spread has been attributed to cold working temperatures in these environments.

Food manufacturing plants may need to shift their perspectives on gadgets and safety. It turns out that cold temperature and forced ventilation in meat processing plants, originally intended to prevent the spread of bacteria, may actually encourage the passing of COVID-19 particles from person to person.

For plant managers, these unprecedented times call for the use of new technologies and embracing the IoT and automation in ways that improve worker safety. IoT-enabled wearable technologies reportedly makes it possible to monitor employees’ health in real-time. Workers can monitor their own health, and even share verified data with the company directly.

IoT, in partnership with Avnet – the global technology solutions company, developed the connectivity and security startup Nodle, whose M1 wearable that can be clipped to an employee’s shirt or badge or worn as a necklace. The device measures just 5 cm or 2 inches, tracks distance, and notifies employees with a buzz when they get too close to one another, within 6 feet.

Specialist technologies may be important as part of a low-cost digital retrofitting strategy. Retrofitted smart sensors can monitor the temperature of a working environments in order increase safety. Using a network of sensors to calculate temperature algorithms, the equipment can detect when a temperature falls above or below an environment’s average temperature margins, and alert plant managers via a human machine interface (HMI) on a phone or computer.

Because these systems operate in real-time, workers could react quickly to any safety and logistical issues or remove employees from the environment until the temperature has been regulated to safe level. Data gained from sensors could also be more easily communicated through easily accessible, automatically generated safety reports. This could help alert workers to ensure they meet guidelines, and safety could be engrained into employees’ daily workflow and the plant’s working culture.

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