Technological Transformation: A New Era of Safety

Safety has always been a top priority for domestic manufacturers. Recently, a surge of innovation in new safety technology has helped companies like Zekelman Industries make their facilities the safest in the entire world.

“Our teammates are our biggest asset,” says Jan Barnewall, Director of Environmental Health and Safety at Zekelman. “We’re doing every single thing we can to make sure that they’re safe while they’re doing their jobs.”

Here’s a closer look at three state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies that are making Zekelman facilities safer, smarter places to work.

1. SafeRack Tarping Station for fall prevention

The SafeRack Tarping Station at Zekelman’s Sharon Tube is one of the latest additions to the Farrell, Pennsylvania, facility. SafeRack is designed to streamline truck loading while protecting drivers from injury.

Traditionally, when tarping a load, drivers stand on top of the load up to 13 feet off the ground. A fall from that height onto the concrete floor could cause significant injury, Barnewall says.

SafeRack eliminates this risk by allowing the driver to lay out a tarp on a platform at bed height and have the system maneuver the tarp instead. First, the tarp is rolled out onto the platform. Then, the system picks it up, moves it over, and sets it on top of the truck’s load. “The truck driver never has to go on top of the truck at all,” says Barnewall. “SafeRack completely eliminates fall risk.”

2. Geofences for targeted safety monitoring

Geofencing uses artificial intelligence to create a virtual fence or perimeter within a physical location, based on the location of people or objects. In Zekelman facilities, geofences are used to monitor zones with limited access to ensure that safety features are still functioning properly. Geofencing areas are determined based on designated risk zones.

For example, if a truck driver needs to climb onto a load, they’ll attach the trailer to a net system that prevents fall injuries. If the net system isn’t in place while the driver is on top of a trailer, however, the geofence will detect it, activate strobe and horns as well as send a message to the shipping department for intervention.

“It’s pretty amazing,” says Barnewall. “The geofencing technology won’t send the signal unless the driver is in the bay, the driver is on top of his load, and the nets aren’t hooked up.”

3. for AI-enabled risk management

The Sentri360® platform at Zekelman’s Atlas Tube facility in Blytheville, Arkansas, helps teammates engage in risk management like never before. The platform harnesses sensor fusion, a process that merges data from multiple sensors to analyze and synthesize data. This data is used to make informed decisions and estimations, which helps identify safety threats before accidents can occur.

After collecting inputs from wearables and ocular devices that use real-time location technologies, the system feeds that data into edge computers for AI analysis and processing. The AI system’s edge computer serves as its brain, housing all the complex algorithms that control and process the facility’s cameras. The edge computer analyzes data in the same way that humans process information by taking in data with its sensors, processing it immediately, and then reacting in real-time. The output of this revolutionary system is near-real-time alerts and updates to managers and workers that can flag potential safety issues before an incident occurs.

Managers can use Sentri360® to ensure that teammates are wearing their hard hats, safety vests, and even to monitor how many workers are in a geofenced zone. “AI is doing its job 24/7,” Barnewall says.

Ultimately, these tech-powered safeguards facilitate a strong safety culture where workers feel protected and respected.

“Safety not only keeps people safe, but it also makes them appreciate where they work,” Barnewall says. “If they feel safe, they’re going to be happier teammates. They’re going to be more productive. They’re going to keep an eye more on quality, and they’re going to do a great job overall. Safety culture is at the core of all that.”


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