­­­­­­Wearable Devices for EHS & Job Safety: 4 Key Insights

[fa icon="calendar"] Tue, May 23, 2017 / by Alexa Sussman

ehs_technology.jpgIn 2015 alone, there were 7.2 million work days lost from occupational injuries and illnesses and 4,821 workers killed on the job, costing all sectors a total of about $170 billion.

As technological advancements have brought us wearable devices—like smart watches, fitness trackers and augmented reality glasses—EHS professionals are introducing them into EHS and job safety to reduce those numbers.

Here are 4 insights into this development:

Embrace the World of the Connected Worker

Recently, Honeywell and Intel joined forces to develop a prototype for a wearable device that connects workers to their safety systems. With Intel’s Internet of Things (IoT) strategy in mind, they looked for a way to instantly transmit data rather than sending it to a remote hub.

Being a “connected worker” is beneficial because:

  • A variety of sensors like self-contained breathing apparatus, heart rate monitor, toxic gas monitor, activity detection device and non-verbal gesture device can immediately signal a dangerous situation.
  • Improvements on current technology will allow the device to determine the cause of a man-down scenario.
  • Activity tracking can improve productivity by determining if a worker is taking extra unnecessary steps to complete a task, or if exertion is causing heart rate increase.

Follow the Leaders

Companies who have embraced wearable devices are seeing positive results. Coal mining organizations have seen up to a 90% decrease in dangerous levels of coal dust which causes pneumoconiosis (black lung) since implementing a continual personal dust monitor (CPDM).

Previously, mines collected air samples in a filter and sent them to a lab to be tested, but that process took weeks while workers were potentially exposed to hazardous conditions. The CPDM cuts that time to minutes and provides real-time updates to workers so they know if they are safe.

Look to the Future

This technology has the potential to revolutionize all EHS and Job Safety processes. In addition to possibly tracking things like heart rates, noise levels, ergonomics and air quality, wearable devices can take technology one step further.

With augmented reality capabilities, frontline workers could possibly receive cues about daily actions and hazardous situations, or have the support of a dispatcher who sees what the wearer is seeing. This would allow for better communication with appropriate parties as well as immediate access to relevant information.

Proceed, but with Caution

Before you jump headfirst into this investment, you should know all that it entails.  Closely monitoring someone’s activities and behaviors muddies the legal and ethical waters in the workplace. There may be issues regarding consent, HIPAA, liability and cybersecurity risks.

It’s also a costly project that may not solve all of your organization’s issues, if they are more process related than biofeedback related.

When you have all the information you need, you can adopt the type of wearable devices that work best for your EHS and business needs.

EHS Risk Management Guidebook

Topics: EHS

Alexa Sussman

Written by Alexa Sussman

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