P P Ensure

P P Ensure

Katlin Walsh

PPEnsure is properly worn on the head, turning the lights to solid blue.

Final: P P Ensure is properly worn on the head, turning the lights to solid blue.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a critical accompaniment to any technical work in a shop or competitive robotics experience. While PPE protects from potential dangers in the workplace, the lack of consistent reminders and unique PPE styling allows youth to “forget” to wear it. 

P P Ensure provides audio and visual reminders to youth to wear their PPE without need for adult intervention. When not worn or tightened improperly, the hard hat creates an audible alarm and flashes red, indicating that is not meeting safety standards. When the hardhat is placed on the user’s head and tightened properly, the audio and visual alarm stops, informing the user that they are properly wearing their equipment. 

P P Ensure utilizes a homemade analog button, using two pieces of conductive fabric with a velostat resistive fabric to sense when the band is pressed. This adaptive addition increases safety measures, while maintaining official Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards regarding maintenance to PPE.

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

P P Ensure Video

P P Ensure is intended for forgetful youth or adults who work in a setting where PPE is required. Through the use of visual and audio cues, users are reminded to keep PPE on, and to wear it properly.

The additional mechanism is not intended to alter the relationship between the user and the hardhat itself other than to encourage increased frequency of use. Ideally, if any relationship is formed between the user and the wearable, the use of lights and sound will create a more personal and encouraging experience associated with PPE rather than one of dread or requirement.

Technical Restraints

P P Ensure follows all OSHA guidelines surrounding alteration and maintenance of PPE, including designing mechanisms which are adhered to the surface of the hardhat with non-corrosive substances, as well as refraining from altering the form of any part of the existing PPE. All standards and regulations from OSHA regarding hardhat manufacturers alterations can be found here.

The most notable design considerations to the physical system are as follows:

  • Clearance must be maintained between the hardhat shell and the wearer’s head
  • No metal components may be placed inside the hardhat
  • Only stickers may be placed on the surface of the hardhat (no paint)
  • All stickers must be placed at least 3/4″ from the brim of the helmet

In order to comply with these restraints, the Playground Express and the attached battery were adhered with removable velcro to the front of the helmet.

Mechanism Considerations

The constructed mechanism is a single analog switch being pressed when the user tightens the hardhat onto their head. The button is completely hidden within the band of the hardhat (which is able to be modified according to OSHA). When tightened properly, the user’s forehead presses into the band within the hardhat, compressing the piece of velostat within the button between two pieces of conductive fabric to complete the circuit.

Until the button is fully pressed, the circuit responds to the user by flashing red and orange lights, in addition to created a repeated foghorn sound. Once the button is pressed, all noise stops, and the onboard NeoPixels turn to solid blue (matching the colour of the vinyl stickers).

P P Ensure has been left on a table by a student, it makes foghorn noises and flashes red at the user.

Final: P P Ensure has been left on a table by a student, it makes foghorn noises and flashes red at the user.

The circuit then uses pieces of electrical tape covering conductive thread to connect to the Playground Express and the battery on the front of the hardhat.

A piece of thick fabric was adhered to the existing foam band, creating the analog switch within the fabric.

Work in Progress: A piece of thick fabric was adhered to the existing foam band, creating the analog switch within the fabric.

Material Choices

Soft materials were added to the headband of the helmet in order to maintain the soft foam feeling on the user’s forehead. As the hardhat is intended to be used for extended periods of time, the smallest interface components possible were constructed in order to reduce weight and required maintenance.

The headband is easily latched onto existing mounting systems within the helmet.

Work in Progress: The headband is easily latched onto existing mounting systems within the helmet.

The use of electrical tape to cover conductive thread was implemented in order to avoid any potential short circuits of wires or conductive material that may be introduced in the user’s work environment. Velcro was used to adhere the components on the outside of the hat in order for the components to be quickly detachable should an accident occur where the user’s helmet is caught or bumped.

Mounting tabs using velcro are created for the battery and Playground Express to connect to.

Work in Progress: Mounting tabs using velcro are created for the battery and Playground Express to connect to.

Decoration

Vinyl stickers were created featuring official safety badges of FIRST Robotics Safety standards, which all students must complete in order to be eligible to work in a shop environment. By creating large decals, students are able to display machines that they are cleared to work on. As the user completes more and more safety requirements, additional decals can be added to their helmets – creating a more personalized experience.

Official Safety Badges demonstrate that the user is certified to be in the shop

Final: Official Safety Badges demonstrate that the user is certified to be in the shop

CODE

Source code is available at this link!

The use of for loops was utilized in order to minimize the number of lines that the code needed to go through. By downloading a tone reader app, the frequency of specific notes was translated to the Playground Express onboard Piezo.

Using a combination of specific examples from sample code for the Playground Express, three concepts were combined to create the final product:

  1. NeoPixel Lighting
  2. Piezo Tones
  3. Pull Up Resistors

Though these three tutorials were referenced, all code created in the final product were original.

PROJECT CONTEXT

FIRST Robotics Competition

P P Ensure was created following extensive safety standards documented for use in the FIRST Robotics Competition. (FIRST Inspires) Related research involved completing a 3 hour certification on shop safety prepared and certified by UL in the following areas:

  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Safety Standards
  • Hand and Power Tools
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Fire Safety
  • Lockout / Tagout Procedures
  • Safety Data Sheets
  • Safety Acknowledgement Waiver

After completing each of the eight modules, each participant is required to complete a test with a minimum score of 80% prior to being granted entry into the machine shop or competition space.

PPE Standards

Using the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) classification system for hardhats, it was determined that a Class I hardhat was suitable to protect workers for top-of-helmet strikes only (How to Choose the Right Hard Hat for the Job).

Using 3M’s hardhat tutorial for adjusting proper fit as a guide, the instructional video which accompanies the wearable was kept short (under 25 seconds) and informative to maintain interest and accuracy of the user (Proper Fit’ – 3M Hard Hat H-700 Series & H-800 Series). Given research indicating that eLearning attention span is shrinking to just 8 seconds per user (ELearning Best Practices: How Long Should Training Videos Be?), maintaining a short informational video was critical to PPE standards being met.

Related Works

P P Ensure aims to take a low cost stepping stone between traditional PPE and high tech (and high cost) PPE on the market today (Bonasio). The Microsoft endorsed hardhat creates a great bridge between protective equipment and use of augmented reality, however is limited severely by price. Companies would likely be unable to purchase bulk units of a AR enabled hardhat for an entire company’s worth of workers. Furthermore, workers are often expected to purchase PPE out of pocket, or are provided with a voucher to purchase PPE from specific companies in order to work.

Outside of hardhats, steps towards augmented PPE are being made. The University of Minnesota’s research paper on Augmented Awareness in Wearable Technologies (Dunne), indicates that technologies related to how PPE can detect hazards and protect users before accidents occur, while maintaining comfort.

Though not as high tech as either example, P P Ensure aims to take cost effective strides towards acceptance of technological enhancements in the workplace.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bonasio, Alice. “This Is What A Mixed Reality Hard Hat Looks Like.” VRScout, 1 Feb. 2018, vrscout.com/news/mixed-reality-hard-hat/.

Dunne, Lucy. “Next-Generation PPE: Toward Improved Thermal Comfort and Augmented Awareness Through Wearable Technologies.” Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, State of Minnesota, 12 Sept. 2018, www.maes.umn.edu/dunne53-031.

“ELearning Best Practices: How Long Should Training Videos Be?” Panopto Video Platform, Panopto, 3 Jan. 2020, www.panopto.com/blog/how-long-should-training-videos-be/.

“FIRST Inspires.” FIRST Inspires, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, www.firstinspires.org/.

“How to Choose the Right Hard Hat for the Job.” United Rentals, www.unitedrentals.com/project-uptime/safety/how-choose-right-hard-hat-job#/.

“‘Proper Fit’ – 3M Hard Hat H-700 Series & H-800 Series.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 Aug. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy3xR3KQ1yA.

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