This post was first published on the Herald.
An app warning outdoor workers when they’re at risk of being hit by lightning is part of a Wellington man’s plan to tackle slack workplace safety attitudes.
Clint Van Marrewijk, a former mechanical engineer and farmer, created his safety app WeatherHalo, which sends caution and danger alerts to users when a lightning strike is predicted to hit near them.
“Globally there’s a lot of lightning sensors and they measure every lightning strike that happens,” Van Marrewijk said.
“We measure where these strikes happen and we use that data to put some predictive power on where the next strike might happen.”
App users – who could be people working in industries such as scaffolding, roofing, mining, and oil and gas – will receive the alert directly and can decide whether it is safe to continue working or not.
The idea is to improve stop-work decisions and empower workers with better knowledge in the field.
Van Marrewijk started mobile safety platform SaferMe in 2017 and launched WeatherHalo in November last year.
“We launched SaferMe to change the perception that ‘danger is just a part of my job’ – which is a concept many workers believe. Our apps disrupt how businesses and organisations have typically dealt with health and safety, by sending the safety data straight to the worker.
The app uses sensor data to predict where lightning might strike next.
“You might get up in the morning and by the time you get out to site, the weather could have changed. The benefit of WeatherHalo is that it’s accurate and workers can feel confident about their lightning protection safety.”
The app was accurate to within 10km, he said.
“I think what’s interesting when it comes to workplace safety is a lot of things are often seen as ‘part of the job’. Something like lightning’s a perfect example. Traditionally, people think ‘we just can’t avoid it and you’re unlucky if it happens to you’.”
Across the world there are between 6000 and 24,000 deaths by lightning strike per year, but the rate of injury is much higher, with 200,000 seriously injured, he said.
SaferMe is now the largest specialist safety app creator in the world – with clients in 11 countries.
WeatherHalo was developed over six months in partnership with MetService.
Since launching, SaferMe has worked with clients such as Vodafone Global, Department of Conservation of New Zealand, Veolia, AngloGold Ashanti and TB Free New Zealand.