How AR Can Help Working in Hazardous Environments

16 Marzo 2023

Modern augmented reality technologies, like AR/XR visors, can help to improve safety in hazardous work environments. There are several AR applications that make this possible, such as remote support and remote training.

Working in hazardous environments can put the safety of maintenance and field operators at risk. Here’s how wearable AR devices can make these jobs safer through risk prevention and better training and support for technicians in the field.

Hazardous environment: what are the risk factors?

Some work environments pose high levels of risk for workers, for example due to the presence of potentially explosive substances. These environments are typical in some specific sectors, like oil platforms, mines and the pharmaceutical, food and manufacturing industries.

In these circumstances, there are several risk factors that need to be considered:

  • Accidental contact with substances at high temperatures;
  • Forklift accidents with tall racks;
  • Exposure to various type of hazardous radiation (laser or ionising radiation);
  • Accidents near furnaces in steelworks;
  • Mistakes that can cause explosions in refineries.

Obviously, there are procedures, technologies and systems designed to reduce these risks, as well as appropriate staff training. However, using AR technologies can further improve safety in hazardous work environments, capitalising on the benefits of AR to enable employees to perform dangerous work more safely.

Hazard prevention and control in the work environment with AR

Augmented reality allows you to add digital elements to the real world, superimposing digital content onto an existing physical context. In an industrial context, some of the most efficient solutions are wearable AR devices, like AR visors that allow workers in the field to receive remote support in real time.

This technology offers several safety benefits in hazardous working environments:

  • Professional training: AR can improve training for workers that perform dangerous tasks, for example by creating content through a web interface, like CAD files and 3D images, and distributing them to the workforce remotely using wearable AR devices;
  • Remote support: workers in the field can receive remote support in real time from experts, so they can follow their guidance when performing operations in the field, thereby reducing the risk of errors and accidents, especially in complex situations;
  • Emergency management: AR can help companies manage emergencies more safely, providing workers with immediate information about the procedures they should follow, for example indicating the escape routes to use to evacuate after a fire or hazardous substance spillage;
  • System repair and maintenance: wearable AR devices can increase the safety of maintenance and repair work on industrial systems, as engineers can supervise the work in real time and identify any potential hazards through the technicians’ AR visors;
  • Operating manuals always at hand: AR allows workers to always have operating manuals available to consult. They can upload the information directly to their field of vision, or through a smartphone using a specific QR code to upload the information on a piece of equipment, to help them follow any type of procedure correctly.

What is ATEX Certification?

In hazardous work environments, approved devices must be used, like ATEX technologies. These are products and devices that have achieved ATEX certification (from the French ATmosphère EXplosible), meaning they are suitable for use in potentially explosive atmospheres and in hazardous environments in general (based on EU directive 94/9/EC and subsequent ATEX directive 2014/34/EU).

The ATEX certification guarantees that devices are suitable as they can only be certified if they have passed rigorous tests and have proved to be safe for use in explosive atmospheres. These are work environments where three elements are present: air, a source of ignition and an explosive substance (flammable gases, combustible dusts or vapours).

ATEX-certified devices are robust enough to be used in hazardous environments and they reduce risks for workers in the field. The AR-based Kiber 3 solution is a technology that can improve safety and prevention in complex and hazardous work environments, reducing risk factors and supporting field operations.

The Kiber 3 Kit AR/XR visor is ATEX Zone 1-certified, so it is approved for environments where explosive mixtures are present continuously or intermittently. The visor is built to offer maximum resistance, even in the most difficult and complex situations, and keep the workforce connected at all times.

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