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Wearable Technology in the Workplace

Wearable Technology in the Workplace

Can Wearable Technology in the Workplace Reduce Injuries?

Wearable technology gets a mixed response from the public. Many of us use fitness trackers of one kind or another in our daily lives, monitoring steps, sleep patterns, and more. There’s little question that this type of tracking can help us lead healthier lives and identify problem areas.

Still, when an insurance company or employer attempts to mandate this type of monitoring, it has a science fiction flavor that makes many Americans uncomfortable. Even the title of a recent report from the American Society of Safety Professionals reflects that sense: it’s called “Advancing Safety Surveillance Using Individualized Sensor Technology (ASSIST): Final Progress Report.”

Clearly, there are privacy concerns. However, in most industries reviewed, a majority of workers are already wearing their own health-monitoring technology at work, and more than half in all fields but one said they’d be in favor of preventative technology in the workplace.

The Impact of Wearable Technology in the Workplace

The report referenced above includes findings from a three-year study of fatigue-related monitoring and intervention. While it comes as no surprise to most of us that people get tired at work, workplace fatigue can be both costly and dangerous.

The National Safety Council estimates that fatigue costs U.S. employers more than $130 billion in health-related productivity losses each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says fatigue increases the risk of illness and injury among workers.

For example, accident rates are 30% higher among 3rd shift employees than 1st shift employees. And, a study involving medical residents showed that each extended shift in a month increased that resident’s chances of being involved in a motor vehicle accident on the way home by a stunning 16%.

Wearable devices allow for detection of fatigue in a variety of ways, including changes in heart rate and gait. These measurements assist not just in alerting fatigued workers, but also in identifying the most effective techniques for reducing fatigue and remaining alert on the job.

Injury Prevention Prospects Extend Beyond Fatigue

Although the implementation of wearable technology to help reduce workplace accidents and injuries is relatively new, significant research and testing are underway in a variety of industries.

In the fall, Kinetic raised $4.5 million for research and testing associated with a device that would help monitor health and safety risks in industrial settings.

At the same time, a professor in the University of Michigan’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department says wearable technology can be used to reduce injury rates in the construction industry. 991 construction workers died on the job in 2017, accounting for more than 20% of all workplace fatalities.

While testing is in the early stages and the full opportunities and potential downsides of wearable technology in the workplace have not been fully revealed, most experts seem to agree that this more accurate and efficient means of monitoring health and safety on the job is a potential win-win. Employers have the opportunity to save on costs and increase productivity while also boosting worker safety.

The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
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