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Canadian Oil and Gas Company to Monitor Evacuations via RFID

At a construction site in Newfoundland, the firm will be able to automatically identify the locations of thousands of workers during emergencies, by means of active RFID tags attached to hardhats.
By Claire Swedberg

All of the collected RFID read data is received by the Argus software, and is then managed by Focus FS' software that links the information to the oil company's own enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The company will initially employ the technology to track the locations of individuals in the event of an emergency, while the system also enables management to view whether—and how quickly—zones are emptied out during an evacuation.

Each tag is attached to a hardhat worn by a specific worker. The tag's unique ID number is then linked to that employee's ID in the ERP software. Focus FS and GuardRFID opted against using RFID badges worn in pockets or on lanyards, since they could be misplaced or forgotten—or even create a safety risk if a lanyard were to become entangled in moving mechanical parts. A hardhat, on the other hand, is required for every worker before he or she can enter high-risk areas. When awoken by an exciter as a worker enters a specific area, the tag transmits its own ID to the reader, along with that of the exciter, and the software then determines that individual's location based on the particular exciter that woke it up. The software can also calculate the direction in which an individual is travelling, based on the order of portals (indicating zones) through which he or she has passed.

The hardware is designed to be rugged, in order to accommodate such conditions as temperatures dropping as low as -40 degree Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit) and heavy snowfall. However, the readers are typically installed in heated alcoves, thereby affording some protection.

The system is currently being installed, Brown reports, and will enable the locating of thousands of workers beginning in May or June.

By the end of the second quarter of this year, Focus FS and GuardRFID intend to release a commercialized version of the oil and gas personnel-tracking solution for use on or off shore, based on the system developed for the Canadian oil and gas company.

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