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Utilizing IoT in hazardous work environments

In New Zealand, the forestry industry is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. Workers in the forestry industry are three times more likely to be killed while at work than any other industry in New Zealand (WorkSafe, 2021). Internet of Things (IoT) devices are being leveraged to increase the safety of workers in other industries. However the forestry industry has not adopted this technology. This thesis proposes a new IoT solution for safety in the forestry industry, with a primary focus on the forestry task of `breaking-out'. This solution utilizes geofencing and GPS technology to ensure that workers are out of a `danger zone’ when a cable hauler is operating. To implement this solution, two IoT devices were developed: a carried unit which the breaker-outs carry with them, and an in-cab unit which is mounted within the hauler cab. The two units communicate via radio frequency, and a button located on the carried unit allows the workers to set a geofence that outlines the `danger zone'. This allows the cable hauler operator to see the location of all breaker-outs at all times, and be notified when any of them are at risk, i.e. inside the danger zone. Two tests were performed to evaluate the viability of this solution for use within the forestry industry. The first test evaluated the technical requirements of the devices, while the second test evaluated the device performance when deployed in an active forestry harvesting operation. While some limitations were found, these tests prove proof-of-concept and illustrate how this solution could be used to mitigate the risk of incidents in the forestry industry. Finally, the proposed IoT solution can be used for additional applications within other areas of the forestry industry. One such application is that of proximity detection on the skid site. This thesis illustrates how the devices can be used to allow machine operators and workers on the ground to be alerted when they are too close to a machine. This can mitigate the risk of an incident occurring, not just for breaker-outs, but for additional workers across the forestry industry.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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