Helmet sensors protect against carbon monoxide poisoning

Helmet sensors protect against carbon monoxide poisoning from Shop safety

By: Shop safety  20-Sep-2013
Keywords: Mining Safety, Safety at Work, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning,

Research calling for the use of a wearable computing system installed in a helmet to protect construction workers from carbon monoxide poisoning, a serious lethal threat in this industry, has garnered the Virginia Tech investigators a Best Paper Award. The award will be presented at the 2013 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Automation Science and Engineering in August. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant problem for construction workers in both residential and industrial settings. The danger exists because the exhaust from gasoline-powered hand tools can quickly build up in enclosed spaces and easily overcome the tool's users and nearby co-workers. In the paper, the researchers explained how they integrated a pulse oximetry sensor into a typical construction helmet to allow continuous and noninvasive monitoring of workers' blood gas saturation levels. The results of their study showed that a user of this helmet would be warned of impending carbon monoxide poisoning with a probability of greater than 99 percent. The paper was written by Jason B. Forsyth of Durham, N.C., a Ph.D. candidate in computer engineering, his adviser Thomas L. Martin, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Deborah Young-Corbett, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and a member of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and Ed Dorsa, associate professor of industrial design. The paper, "Feasibility of Intelligent Monitoring of Construction Workers for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning," was the focus of Forsyth's master's thesis. Martin, Young-Corbett, and Dorsa were all members of his graduate committee. Ten Virginia Tech students participated in the study conducted on the university campus. They mimicked simple tasks of construction workers. To show the feasibility of monitoring for carbon monoxide poisoning without subjecting the users to dangerous conditions, the researchers used a prototype for monitoring the blood oxygen saturation. The difference for monitoring for oxygen and for carbon monoxide differs only in the number of wavelengths of light employed, so if this monitoring proved feasible, then the monitoring for carbon monoxide would be feasible as well. They selected a helmet for the installation of a wearable computer because they needed a design that could be worn year round which ruled out seasonal clothing such as overalls or coats. They also wanted a design that was socially acceptable, and one that struck a balance between comfort, usability, and feasibility. "This helmet is only a first step toward our long-term vision of having a network of wearable and environmental sensors and intelligent personal protective gear on construction sites that will improve safety for workers," according to their report. "While this helmet targets carbon monoxide poisoning, we believe there are compelling opportunities for wearable computing in reducing injuries due to falls, electrocution, and particulate inhalation, as well as workers on foot being struck by vehicles." Martin is a past recipient of both the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, both furthering his research in the design of electronic textiles and "smart" clothes. Something to consider for the future in Australia...

Keywords: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Mining Safety, Safety at Work