Roughly 10 years ago, radio frequency identification providers began offering personnel safety solutions to monitor workers on offshore oil rigs and in other hazardous environments. In the event of an emergency, these solutions allow companies to view workers' locations in real time to see who made it safely to muster stations and who needs to be rescued.
Identec Solutions, for example, launched WatcherOffShore in 2003 to monitor workers on oil rigs in the North Sea (see Active UHF RFID Tags Muster Support for Oil Rigs). Since then, adoption has been growing, and the company predicts that within five years, all North Sea oil rigs will use active RFID tags to track personnel.
Several years ago, RTLS providers developed personnel safety solutions that enable hospitals to monitor caregivers who work on emergency and psychiatric wards, where it's not uncommon for them to be assaulted by patients. Florida's Flagler Hospital, for example, recently deployed Ekahau's Staff Safety & Workflow Optimization within its behavioral-health unit (see Flagler Hospital Improves Caregiver Communications With Ekahau's RFID-Over-Wi-Fi). Many hospitals that employ RFID to track assets add on staff safety applications in their emergency rooms, says Mark Norris, Ekahau's CEO.
Unlike other RFID applications, deciding whether to deploy a personnel safety solution is typically not determined by return on investment. In all these settings, using RFID to track personnel can make the difference between life and death. Still, employing these solutions in industrial and other sectors can help companies comply with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirements for emergency evacuation plans, says Zahir Abji, CEO of GuardRFID.
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