Connected safety – Gas Safety Insights for Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS)

In most organisations, roles related to environment, health and safety (EHS) focus heavily on risk reduction. There may be compliance responsibilities interwoven with this − EHS staff are often tasked with implementing hazard controls and may be responsible for enforcing and proving compliance – but above all the focus is on making things safer and healthier, and as productive as possible.

In the not-so-distant past, EHS staff in settings with gas hazards were often responsible for ensuring appropriate gas detection and training, and may have manually collated data from gas detectors, but beyond that they had relatively little data to use. It is hard to proactively drive down incidents or be certain how compliant with safety measures your workforce is, when all you know for sure is whether a detector did or did not sound an alarm.

However, the advent of the internet of things (IoT) has changed all that. Now, EHS staff can connect gas detection systems to the cloud just as they connect a fitness tracker or in-car satellite navigation system, and benefit from the many gas insights this provides. Cloud-based software applications like Crowcon Connect make it easy for EHS staff to identify problems with specific devices (and users!), track and schedule maintenance, automate many aspects of compliance audit and trouble-shoot recurrent problems.

What does connected safety mean for EHS personnel?

In a word: data. Connecting gas monitoring systems to the cloud allows EHS personnel to gather actionable insights (data) from their detector fleet, which they can act upon to improve safety. These include the ‘traditional’ elements such as time in/out of use, exposure levels and alarms sounded, but go far beyond these to include information about individuals’ use of the device (for example, the extent to which an individual/group uses the detector correctly) and where devices are at any given time.

With Crowcon Connect, the ability to use quick user assignment allows EHS staff to optimise their data by linking a specific device with a known user, each and every time, regardless of whether the device is assigned to an individual long term or is part of a pool.

What is quick user assignment?

In this context, quick user assignment is the ability to link or associate a specified user with a specified device, in a swift and straightforward way. For example, Crowcon Connect can use the RFID tags in a user’s ID badge to link them to a given device. This has dual benefits: firstly, the EHS staff know that the information on that device relates to a named individual and secondly, they can trust the data because it is collected and archived automatically, with no risk of human error.

How will connected safety work? Who will it work for?

Connected safety works for the entire organisation; when deployed strategically it can increase safety, improve staff morale and provide a wealth of information about productivity, the working environment and compliance. For EHS staff in particular, a good cloud software package for their gas detector fleet maximises and automates the collection of data while reducing the risk of human error in data capture – this is not only vital to ensure safety, but also makes it far easier to collate the records required at any compliance audit, and reduces the burden of manual (error-prone) documentation. And, when devices are pre-assigned to specific workers, the monitoring of compliance becomes both more accurate and straightforward.

Interested in learning more? Click here to read more about Crowcon’s own cloud software solution.

Connected safety – Fleet Health Monitoring for Multi-Site Fleets 

As you are no doubt aware, most gas detectors require periodic maintenance and testing, if their owners are to comply with gas safety regulations and keep their workforce safe. As you are also no doubt aware, some organisations have large numbers of gas detectors (often referred to as a fleet or fleets of devices) and keeping track of the maintenance requirements for each and every one of these can be a major headache. If the business operates from multiple sites, and especially if gas monitors move between those sites, this problem is greatly magnified. 

What is Fleet Health Monitoring? 

Many companies still manage their device fleets manually, using spreadsheets to track the location, status and calibration schedule of each detector. This is repetitive and often tedious work that takes staff away from more productive tasks. Manual management is also, frankly, inefficient. It may just about suffice for basic elements like tracking which device is where (although even that becomes cumbersome when very large numbers are involved). But when managers also need to know which devices are out of battery so cannot be used on the next shift, and which ones are showing signs of wear and tear (and they should know these things) then the data becomes too overwhelming for manual methods to handle. 

In these circumstances, it is all too easy for devices to go missing or for somebody to arrive on shift and find that the detector allocated to them is out of battery. The good news is that now, connected safety initiatives such as cloud software applications can remove these problems entirely and make fleet device management much more straightforward and efficient, even across multiple sites. 

How does it work and what are the requirements? 

Cloud software applications for gas detector fleets, such as Crowcon Connect, automatically transfer and process the gas data from gas detectors, and store it securely in the cloud in useful formats. This data includes not just exposure information, readings and times, but also more detailed information about the way in which devices are used (i.e., the extent of compliance with regulations) and who was using the device at each point (it is very easy to associate a specific user with a specific device in Crowcon Connect, for example, even if that device is part of a fleet or pool).  

Crowcon Connect can also be tailored to suit the specific requirements of a business or site, and authorised users can access the dashboard from any location, at any time. All you need is a connected device (including mobile devices; many people use their smartphones or tablets). Access can also be restricted by fleet or team, to maintain privacy where required. 

What are the benefits? 

Crowcon Connect has a user-friendly dashboard that displays user information, alarm and exposure data, device locations, dates when calibration/maintenance is due, user information and a host of other data, all in an easy-to-use format. It gives managers a panoramic view of the entire fleet, regardless of where each devices is located or has been used, and that information can be used to make safety, compliance and productivity gains and identify areas for improvement.  

This type of cloud software can also drive up safety standards, because now managers can see at a glance which devices are out of battery and cannot be used in the next shift, and/or which require maintenance. That maintenance and calibration can also be planned in ways that minimise downtime, because the dashboard lets users see the relevant dates in advance. 

What is more, because the data is collected automatically, the risk of human error is eliminated and Crowcon Connect can deliver trustworthy, complete documents that are ready for use in any compliance or safety audit.  

Want to find out more? Click here to read more about Crowcon’s own cloud software solution. 


Connected safety – More than Smart PPE 

Until quite recently, gas detection was widely considered to be ‘just another aspect of personal protection equipment (PPE)’, with gas detectors being fairly basic pieces of kit that detected gas hazards and nothing more. That attitude has been reinforced over years by the fact that gas detectors can be quite cumbersome things; they need bump testing and regular maintenance in order to work, which makes them something of a weak link in an increasingly digitalised, remotely-monitored, connected world. But is that attitude still fair? 

Well, no. Because just as just as every device and system  from washing machines and fridges to supply chains and enterprise equipment management – has joined the internet of things (IoT), so has gas detection. Now, just as your wearable fitness tracker can monitor your health status, and the impact of variables in your environment (exercise, food, temperature, sleep etc.), your gas monitor can connect to the web and feed data into software to generate insights that go far beyond, ‘have I been exposed to a gas hazard today?’ Becoming part of the IoT is transforming gas detection; and that transformation has only just begun. 

Where are we now with connected safety in gas detection? 

As things stand, gas detectors are increasingly connected to cloud-based software. This is often provided on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis by the device manufacturer, either on their own infrastructure or via a third party cloud provider. It may take the form of an app that is accessed through a web browser. The software interacts with each gas monitor in a fleet, recognising each one individually and logging data throughout each device’s operation.  

Of course, the primary purpose of gas detectors remains the safety and protection of personnel, but IoT connectivity offers many additional benefits. The scope of each software package may vary according to the provider, but good quality gas detection SaaS should provide: 

  • Remote monitoring of multiple aspects of the device (e.g., has the alarm sounded, and if so, why? When is the device due for calibration? Does it have any faults?)  
  • The ability to connect the device to the wearer (for example through RFID tags in ID badges) so that any failure to comply with proper use that is detected through the software can then be associated with a specific user. In the same way, consistent correct use is also registered. This makes it  much easier to tackle problems with non-compliance and to prove compliance at audit. 
  • The use of software to automatically upload data to the cloud also eliminates the risk of human error and greatly reduces the need for (often tedious and time-consuming) manual documentation. 
  • Above all, adding gas detectors to the IoT in this way generates lots of useful data and, importantly, presents that data in ways that make it genuinely useful. Some applications can also format and populate reports, invoices and other documentation, which can then be accessed from any mobile device with an internet connection, regardless of location.  

What can SaaS/IoT connectivity do for my fleet? 

The short answer is ‘lots’. Some examples are: 

  • Cloud software and monitoring can make it easier to locate workers and devices. This keeps workers safe and reduces device loss or theft. 
  • In today’s digital environment, the data generated by SaaS services is like gold dust: users can see at a glance which devices need to be calibrated or serviced, where they are and who has them. This information can be combined with schedules to plan service and maintenance in ways that reduce downtime and increase productivity. 
  • In a similar way, data insights can be used to identify hazardous areas (for example, repeated alarms may signal a leak) which can then be tackled proactively. 

Of course, gas detection is just at the beginning of its IoT journey: the future may hold anything from smaller wearable devices to on-site IoT drones and more. But even at this early stage, the benefits of using cloud software are clear. Click here to read more about Crowcon’s own solution.

Connected safety – Centralised Records Storage and Security for Compliance

Connected safety – and in particular the use of cloud applications to collate, present and archive data – is an important evolutionary step for gas detection, and one that is here to stay. The benefits it conveys, including greater safety, easier fleet and compliance management and automated, error-free data capture, are too important to overlook. However …

We live in an era where data is king, and most organisations are acutely aware of their duty to comply with data protection rules. Failure to do so can result in harsh financial and reputational punishment; consequently, some organisations are wary of centralising records in the cloud (and sometimes anywhere else) for fear of data breach via malware, hacking, DDoS attack or simple human error.

While this is understandable, it absolutely need not be a barrier to the use of transformative technologies like Crowcon Connect. All of the relevant risks are well managed and mitigated, and in fact the cloud is a far more secure (and customisable) environment than many people realise.

How does cloud data storage work?

In simple terms, when a Crowcon gas detector is connected via the internet to the Crowcon Connect software, the data passes directly from the detector to the cloud. It does not interface with any other software, applications or data: in that sense, the stream of data is entirely isolated. Exactly the same applies when the system is used the other way around, i.e. when a user accesses the cloud solution via a connected device.

When we say that gas detector data ends up in the cloud, this is to use ‘cloud’ as a bit of a catch-all term. So, let’s break it down. Many people understand the cloud to mean a hosted environment (i.e. the data sits on a server somewhere, where it interacts with the software). Many assume that ‘the cloud’ is effectively shorthand for ‘a server rack in a datacentre’ and that is often true. But because we know that customers vary in their hosting preferences and needs, the ‘cloud’ that Crowcon Connect exists within can be provided to clients in various forms.

The Crowcon Connect system is hosted and manged on the Microsoft Azure cloud instance hosted in Dublin, Ireland. This is an extremely secure set-up that exceeds the usual Microsoft standards (which are already very robust), and is accessed via an internet connection as we have seen. However, according to need it can also be formatted for use in the following ways:

  • API – the use of an API allows the user to draw upon the Crowcon Connect database in combination with existing databases: some organisations favour this because it allows them to continue using their current dashboards and report tools, but with fleet-wide detector information.
  • On-prem – this term is short for ‘on premises’ and it means just that. If required, Crowcon can create a local version of the portal, which means that all data remains on the organisation’s own in-house servers. Some users like this because it gives them absolute control over their data.
  • Own-cloud – it is also possible for Crowcon to create an implementation on an organisation’s own cloud, which ensures that all device data remains on their server, within their control.

How safe is it?

In all cases and formats, the use of connected safety in this way has been made extremely secure. Full details are given in our IT FAQs document, which you can read by clicking here.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of using a connected safety solution for gas detectors are numerous and potentially transformative. With gas detection that connects to cloud software you can enhance safety, productivity and compliance, and when the gas insights provided are integrated with wider business data, they can be used to make important and lasting improvements. Want to find out more? Click here to read more about Crowcon’s own cloud software solution.

Make your business safer without compromising budgets

Unless your business has very few employees, all of whom work on site, you have probably experienced challenges when it comes to tracking, logging, aggregating and using the data from portable gas detectors. Until recently, this was a widespread problem.

The advent of connected safety, however, has transformed the situation – and for organisations that detect gas hazards, connected gas safety applications (like our own Crowcon Connect) can give you automated compliance records and risk management information, a 24/7 overview of both historic and current training needs and device use, as well as lots of gas safety insights that can be used (for example, with predictive analytics) to make your internal processes and business operations more efficient and effective.

Connected safety solutions can also help you to reduce costs and get better value for the money you do spend.

We’ve already published a couple of posts about aspects of connected safety: you can read them here and here. In this post we’ll look at the ways a connected safety solution and gas safety insights can make your business safer (in terms of both secure business data and better gas safety protocols) without the need for large investments.

What is a connected gas safety solution?

We have defined this term in an earlier post but in a nutshell, a connected safety application links all of your portable devices to a cloud-based software application, which downloads all of the data from each device and presents it to you in a flexible and user-friendly way.

A key advantage is that the connected safety app can aggregate your data both for single instances and over time, which means you get the top quality data you need to make optimal, cost effective, decisions – all in a user-friendly, intuitive format.

For example, Crowcon Connect uploads all data from portable gas detectors when they are docked at the end of a work session (this can be done via a fixed docking point and/or via Bluetooth when the device is charged). It then presents the information (whichever element(s) and from whichever perspective you choose) on a dashboard.

You can see this in action in our interactive online demo.

How does connected safety make my organisation safer?

A connected safety solution safeguards your organisation in two primary ways. Firstly, it gives you proof that your gas protection protocols are being used correctly and that you are complying with all relevant regulations. Secondly, it stores your gas detection data securely and maintains the integrity of that data.

That final point is important because the quality of the data you collect and analyse is imperative. Only top quality (current, accurate and correctly aggregated) data can be used to prove compliance, and with the analysis required to improve operational efficiency and productivity.

You are probably familiar with the need to store data securely – data protection has been a topic of debate and legislation for years now – but you may be less familiar with the extent to which data can be corrupted when it is read, stored, transmitted or processed, unless the correct safeguards are in place.

That’s why we have integrated multiple layers of security, corruption prevention, data backup and testing protocols into our Crowcon Connect product; for more detail, please read our IT security FAQs, which are here.

What is more, by sending your data to the cloud (and it can be hosted on your own private cloud, or link to your existing reporting tools using a bespoke API solution, if you prefer,), you may be able to make substantial savings on storage costs while finding it much easier (and less expensive in terms of time and human resource) to get the most value from your data (which may yield further cost savings). Being on the cloud also ensures that updates to the portal happen immediately and automatically when richer insights and more features are released s you always get the best experience possible.

Crowcon Connect improves organisational and practical safety

By using a cloud data system such as Crowcon Connect, you can use your gas safety insights and employee information to monitor compliance (both regulatory and with internal protocols) and to spot gaps in knowledge and training. You can then fix these – for example, by refreshing safety training, developing bespoke programs or discussing issues with staff – which may prevent catastrophe and save lives.

With the bird’s eye view that Crowcon Connect provides, you can clearly see if your detectors are ready to go and being used properly. You can also spot patterns of alarm events or gas exposure, and act to remedy these before they cause major issues.

Cloud data storage and processing lets you review data logs in a timely manner, assess measurements and response times and implement data-backed training and protocols. This can transform your operations and greatly improve safety.

To find out more about Crowcon Connect and cloud storage, please have a look at our white paper on the subject, which you can access by clicking here.

Connected Safety: what are gas safety insights?

In a previous blog post, we talked about connected safety and the many benefits it brings to gas detection and the organisations that use it. We also looked at Crowcon’s own connected safety offering, Crowcon Connect, and saw how it can provide vital gas safety insights, which businesses and managers can use to improve productivity, gas detector fleet management and workplace safety.

In this post we will explore in more detail what we mean by ‘gas safety insights’, and how you can use them to achieve better outcomes across your organisation.

What are Gas Safety Insights and why do I need them?

When an organisation uses Crowcon Connect, every time a Crowcon portable gas detector is returned to its docking station (or to its charger, if the worker is off site), a comprehensive collection of gas data is immediately and automatically uploaded to the Crowcon Connect portal. This data can include:

  • Information about that specific device, such as type and gases being detected
  • Who was using it for the work session in question
  • Where that work session took place, and
  • Details of gas exposures, alarm events and detector use.

Once uploaded, this information can be combined with related information, such as:

  • When that specific device is due for calibration or other maintenance, and
  • Fleet-side faults detected per instrument

Together, these data points generate an individual profile for each device, which is useful in its own right when it comes to proving compliance, locating devices and personnel, making sure all calibrations/maintenance events are up to date and scheduling any that are due. However, the benefits of connected safety data go way beyond this.

Record, Analyse and Act on Gas Safety Insights

Not only does connected safety create a profile for each device, but in doing so it also generates a large volume of data that spans time, users at personal and team levels, locations, gas hazard event types and device fleets.

This data is organisational gold! Large volumes of timely, accurate, constantly updated and cross-organisational data allow managers to:

  • Spot patterns (e.g. of device loss, gas exposure, alarm incidents) from multiple perspectives such as the people, sites/locations, times of day, gas hazards and devices involved, to make informed data driven decisions quickly.
  • These patterns can be contextualised in time – it is easy to see if a particular issue is long-established or recent.
  • Events can be differentiated and compared by site/shift/date – almost any parameter you can think of is easily applied.
  • Data points can be combined and compared to optimise outcomes: for example, you can work out the least productive hours on a given site and schedule device downtime (e.g. calibration) for those times to minimise any loss of productivity.

All of this is possible because the accuracy and real-time nature of connected safety means that the data generated is ideal for use with predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics uses historical data to forecast future events and contexts, which allows an organisation to make truly informed decisions at all levels (for example, in terms of focus and staff recruitment/deployment) and create more intelligent strategies, such as maintenance schedules, productivity monitoring and internal processes.

In this way, connected gas safety applications generate wide-ranging gas insights (data) and when these are analysed and then acted upon they can transform performance, process and safety at multiple points within the business.

This is how Crowcon Connect helps businesses to do better through a systematic approach.

Great for Multi-Site Businesses and Fleets

Collecting high quality data and then analysing and proactively using it can help most organisations. However, connected gas safety is particularly useful for multi-site businesses and any business with widely-dispersed gas detection fleets.

For these organisations, connected gas safety also reduces much of the complexity and time involved in manual recording, and provides almost immediate savings in terms of hours spent documenting compliance, retrieving manual records and preparing for audit.

Furthermore, all organisations stand to gain from having an immediately available and real-time, birds-eye view of their devices and relevant information. Connected gas safety insights can be used to:

  • Schedule maintenance with the least possible downtime (minimising the cost of ownership)
  • Ensure that devices are always in the location required and ready for use (which makes it easier to purchase devices cost-effectively, reduces downtime due to lack of available detectors and minimises device loss)
  • Monitor gas levels from various perspectives (by site/team/shift time etc.) and act promptly to control them where required (which may prevent a gas-related disaster)
  • Monitor gas at given sites over given periods to improve environmental and sustainability outcomes and/or demonstrate improvements as needed (for example, prove that methane emissions at a given site have been reduced over time).

In this way, connected gas safety initiatives like Crowcon Connect can make a solid contribution to the profitability, safety and sustainability of businesses, their personnel and projects.

If you would like to know more about using connected gas safety insights in this way, please check out our white paper on connected safety for multi-site businesses by clicking here. You can also take a look at the Crowcon Connect pages on our website by clicking here.

The Future of Connected Safety

Connected safety is becoming a popular phrase in health and safety settings generally, and gas detection in particular. That’s a good thing – because it’s no overstatement to describe connected safety as an evolutionary step in gas monitoring and protection, and it’s a field that is developing all the time.

In this post we’ll establish exactly what connected safety means for anyone monitoring gas hazards, and find out why it pays to take note of developments in this area.

What is Connected Safety?

In gas monitoring terms, connected safety refers to using the internet of things (IoT) to connect gas detection devices (for example, portable gas monitors) to software that pulls the gas exposure information and other data stored on the detector (the identity of the user for any given session, the extent to which the device was used correctly, etc.), analyses it and presents it in useful forms.

By wirelessly connecting each gas monitor – and the data it collects during each work session – to a specialist software package, you can spot patterns of gas exposure, patterns of use and misuse of detectors and automatically store all of the information you need to quickly prove regulatory and legal compliance.

When this information is scaled up across entire device fleets, naturally the data it produces also scales up and can be aggregated. And if that data is acted upon, it can improve safety across your business and drive better, more informed decisions.

That is, in a nutshell, how our Crowcon Connect solution works.

How does Crowcon Connect work for Connected Safety?

Crowcon Connect is Crowcon’s own software, which works with all current (manufactured from 2004 onwards) and future Crowcon portable gas detectors. Because we own and develop the software, we are constantly upgrading it in light of customer feedback and can make customised versions where required (although it’s also really easy for users to configure the standard dashboard to suit their own needs).

Quick User Assignment easily links devices, events and people

For each work session, anyone who needs a portable detector simply scans in their ID (for example, their work ID badge) and is allocated a device. If they don’t like that device (for example, if it’s not suitable for the job in hand) they can simply re-scan their badge to be assigned another detector.

When the user returns the detector to its dock at the end of the work session, the dock transfers the data to the Crowcon Connect portal while simultaneously un-allocating the device, ready for the next user.

The data transferred to the portal includes details of the user and the device, exposure and alarm information and a full range of gas data. Once that data reaches the portal, Crowcon Connect can crunch the numbers and work its magic.

Connected Safety streamlines processes, improves outcomes

The Crowcon Connect user interface is very intuitive and easy to customise, which means every user can see precisely the information that matters to them, whenever and wherever they need it.

For example, it becomes very straightforward to prove regulatory compliance when real-time data is available, and easy to spot potentially dangerous areas when alarm data begins to cluster. Mundane tasks – such as flagging those detectors that are due for calibration and/or maintenance – can be automated, which saves time and reduces the risk of human error.

Of course you can also aggregate fleet-wide, site-wide and/or team-wide data, which lets you to spot patterns (for example, of exposure events or device losses) and make relevant changes. This helps you to improve your site and workforce safety, and you can always locate detectors (and any workers attached to them) in real time.

Is Connected Safety the way of the future?

In a word, yes. We live in a data-driven world and the use of information is driving improvements in all sectors, gas detection included. Our increasing (and increasingly widespread) reliance on technology is only going to amplify that.

After all, data can do much to offset the shortcomings of human management. Data is objective, not driven by assumptions or bias, and gives an honest reflection of what is actually happening in the field, rather than what is intended to happen. If you’ve ever worn a fitness tracker for a while, you’ll get this idea!

However, data analytics are only useful if they are based on top quality, current information – and that’s where connected safety comes in. Connected safety applications collect information accurately and in real time. If you manage gas monitoring, with data straight from the device you will be operating on the basis of objective, trustworthy information. What is more, you can use that information to make people safer – and even save lives.

We’ll be sharing some more posts about connected safety in the coming weeks, so please come back to this page for those. In the meantime, why not have a look at our white paper on connected safety for more detailed information, or check out our Crowcon Connect pages?