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White Paper

Putting Safety First – Effective Personnel Tracking in Hazardous Environments


This paper outlines the challenges of tracking personnel in a hydrocarbon environment. It describes the strengths and weaknesses of various tracking technologies and their efficacy in a metallic processing environment.

The production, transmission, processing, refining and distribution of hydrocarbons involve substantial risk. Accidents and the subsequent environmental damages, affect not just the people responsible for the disaster, but also the ones in the vicinity. It is therefore important to identify potential hazards and evaluate and quantify associated risks. Comprehensive plans to mitigate such risks, which cover relevant work procedures and stakeholder actions, must be deployed and institutionalized. Adopting well defined health, safety and environment (HSE) policies will help oil and gas companies safeguard employees and improve operations.

In spite of implementing best policies and procedures, therewhich  have been instances of negligence that have caused equipment failures leading to environmental disasters and human casualties. Therefore, effective tracking and monitoring of personnel inside tall metallic structures in an inflammable environment is essential for the well-being of workers and for smoother emergency rescue operations in the wake of a disaster.

An Analysis of Currently Available Personnel Tracking Techniques
Most techniques for tracking personnel in challenging and hazardous working conditions are based on radio waves, lasers, ultrasound waves, infrasound optical identification, and barcodes, among others. The paper discusses the merits and demerits of the following tracking techniques:

  • RFID-based tracking
  • Ultrasound applications
  • Digital video tracking
  • GPS-based tracking

A few promising technologies that have the potential to simplify the process of personnel tracking discussed here are:

  • Infrasound beacons
  • Laser light bursts beacons
  • Barcodes

Harnessing the Best of Technologies for Tracking Personnel in Metal Environments
Each technology has its own set of merits and demerits and no single technique for personnel tracking can comprehensively address the challenges posed by hydrocarbon processing units. Therefore, a combination of techniques, along with immaculate design to address each and every area, is recommended. In addition, integration with a central monitoring room will help trace personnel and raise alarms for faster response during emergencies. A combination of RFID, ultrasound, videography and barcodes is ideal for overcoming the complexity of metallic barriers, eddy currents, electromagnetic fields, broad range of sound frequency and poor lighting conditions. This whitepaper goes on to suggest a design for the ideal track and trace solution.

Enhancing Personnel Safety with Sophisticated Tracking Techniques
Using and integrating these sophisticated technologies requires in-depth planning by experts. Surveying the area to be monitored must be followed by mapping structures and drawing the layouts, preferably in 3D. Computer simulation based on available data is necessary for optimal placement of the RFID and ultrasonic readers. Developing the right algorithms is critical to track personnel from the various camera feeds. This technique needs to be fine-tuned over time, based on field results. Designing a mechanism based on the recommendations made in this paper can help oil and gas companies beef up personnel security and enhance the efficacy of their rescue operations in the event of untoward incidents.