Working with decontamination at various paper mills, Melinda Persson noticed the lack of a coordinated system for risk analysis. Now she is developing the DIRI app, which helps industries with early risk detection, thereby saving lives.
In her industrial decontamination job all over Sweden in 2018, Melinda realized quite soon that despite the presence of toxic chemicals and dangerous machinery on the sites, there was no clear information on occupational safety and health. Later, after becoming a supervisor, she saw how complicated and time-consuming it was for employers to navigate through the legislation on working conditions, trying to find relevant information about risks and equipment, especially on a detailed level. But the most difficult part was reaching out to employees at various sites and times.
“Today, risk analyses are often based on one’s own experience, and that of people around. There’s no clear transfer of information,” says Melinda. “The attitude among the workers was mostly ‘we’ve done it this way one hundred times, and nothing has gone wrong.’”
Curious since childhood
Ever since she was a child, Melinda has wanted to find out how things work, and growing up in a family with great interest in motors, she quickly became fascinated with engines and machinery. Above all, two situations from her job as a decontamination worker turned out to be the driving force behind the DIRI app.
One was when, without a protective mask in a flue gas duct, she had to sweep up unidentified dust that looked like cocoa, feeling a burning sensation in her eyes. The other was when she looked into an incinerator, seeing a 20-year-old boy shovelling ashes, without a protective mask.
“Inside incinerators, waste containing lots of heavy metals is burned, which can cause toxic shocks. He had no clue what entered into his body. So I told him that he had to wear a mask there!”
Melinda started to test an idea with some colleagues. She developed extended risk analyses, meaning that the employees received information about the equipment and how they should handle it. In the evenings, she compiled everything in an Excel sheet that she tested during a maintenance shutdown, with the support of her previous employer. It turned out that both managers and colleagues appreciated her work, and with the support from Jobs and Society (the local enterprise agency office) and other actors in the region of Värmland, she developed the first DIRI prototype.
“And then it just exploded. That was when Sting Bioeconomy found me. Without the network, I would never have made it.”
Pilot launch in the autumn of 2022
With the DIRI app, Melinda hopes to make it easy and time-efficient for workers to take in correct information related to the task in question. This is particularly difficult for those who have a variety of tasks. With risk analyses being required by law, DIRI also makes the job easier for employers, which facilitates the compliance with laws and regulations.
And sure enough, there seems be a need for an extended risk analysis. Unions, as well as major industries and small subcontractors from all over Sweden, are very positive about DIRI.
“The macho culture is strong in the industrial sector, but I believe we’re entering a new era now. Young people today are more aware. They want to bring about a change in attitudes and are more at home in the digital world. Also, they care about their health in another way.”
At present, the DIRI app is undergoing further product development, with the aim of a pilot launch in the autumn of 2022. But Melinda has set her goals higher.
“In 2023, we’ll make a broader market entry, opening up to several different professional groups that are already showing interest. I hope that in 2026, we’ll start looking at other countries with the same need, and that the industry will then see us as a natural component in the pursuit of increased safety.”
DIRI Safety Solutions AB is part of an accelerator programme offered by DigitalWell Ventures (https://digitalwellventures.com/), cooperating with Sting Bioeconomy in supporting the company.