Sensor Equipped Construction Helmet Can Detect Carbon Monoxide

Aug 20, 2013

Researchers at Virginia Tech have come up with a plan for a new kind of helmet for construction workers that can monitor their exposure to carbon monoxide and warn them before it becomes dangerous. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning kills hundreds of Americans each year and sends thousands more to the hospital.  Construction workers face an especially high risk because they often work in enclosed spaces where exhaust from gasoline-powered hand tools can build up fast. 

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas than can cause illness and sudden death.  Sensors can monitor levels in buildings but now a team of researchers from engineering and industrial design at Virginia Tech has come up with a prototype for putting a special carbon monoxide monitoring device inside a typical hard hat.

The pulse oximetry sensor can monitor workers’ blood levels. The idea of integrating sensors into wearable gear is a first step in a long-term vision to prevent many other types of injuries on the job. An emerging field, known as Prevention through Design aims to “design out” more hazards like carbon monoxide poisoning and someday eliminate the need to control them during work operations.  

A write up on the Carbon Monoxide sensing helmet won a Best Paper Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.