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Wearable Technology Innovation Improving Workplace Safety

Florida Business Innovation - Florida Business Insurance

Despite rapid technological advances, workplace injuries and illnesses are estimated to cost the U.S. as much as $250 billion a year. Many companies also face significant safety-related costs due to penalties imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in addition to on-the-job injury prevention programs.

Some companies are turning to wearable technology to better manage risk, reduce safety incidents and optimize worker productivity. Many of today’s workers, who are used to mobile apps, personal wearables and smart-home sensors, favor workplace wearables as helpful tools to improve their safety and on-the-job productivity.

Wearable technology devices use smart algorithms and advanced analytics to deliver risk assessments and data that support precise interventions shown to reduce injury in the workplace. In the future, workers compensation insurers are expected to play an important role in helping to evolve wearable technology methods used to monitor and evaluate worksite conditions and safety.

Many workers in the U.S. today are required to wear technological tracking devices as a condition of employment. First responders, such as paramedics, police officers and firefighters are prime examples. Other occupations that are increasingly exploring wearables include the construction, warehouse and manufacturing sectors.

There are many safety applications for wearable technology, including:

  • Alerts

Wearable technology is able to warn employees of potential risk factors, such as toxins, extreme temperatures or noise levels.

  • Emergency notifications

Wearables can alert workers when an emergency or dangerous situation has occurred or is eminent, preventing them from getting injured

  • Body movement or posture monitoring

Activities that are known to cause injuries or place the worker at risk for an injury can be identified and the worker alerted, such as improper lifting or nodding off

  • Data collection and reporting

Using the same type of sensors in smartphones and smartwatches, wearable devices can collect real-time information. Managers can then use this information to manage workflow and identify risks.

Wearables can capture detailed information and objectively analyze employee movements. This data can be used to streamline work processes and install ergonomic and other safety equipment to reduce the risk of injury.

Here are some interesting applications of workplace wearable devices.

  • Hands-free wearable computer terminals for warehouse and packaging applications. Worn on arm or wrist, they allow users to access mobile computing through voice and button interfaces.
  • Ring-mounted, ergonomically-designed barcode scanners with omnidirectional laser technology.
  • Rugged headsets that enable warehouse and manufacturing workers to communicate while moving around freely.
  • Small device tags that monitor and track the location of assets and personnel in real-time.
  • Wearable reality capture-sensor backpacks that contain 5 cameras to enable 360-degree data collection in almost any type of environment that include a mobile mapping solution.
  • Industrial wristbands that allow hands-free work with computing assistance.
  • Augmented reality smart glasses with a powerful microprocessor and waveguide optics that allow wearer to manipulate virtual 3D objects overlaid in the real world.
  • Sunglasses designed for hands-free, mobile computing and communication using real-time data, navigation and HD photo/video recording.
  • Smart glasses with hands-free access to information, data collection and advanced waveguide optics.
  • Smart helmet clips with modular sensor suite that enable situation awareness including location, presence of dangerous gasses and worker’s vital signs.
  • Intelligent footbeds that collect physiological and biomechanical data. Predicts and mitigates lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries and improves performance.
  • Wearable devices that track and report on strain, sleep, recovery analysis and more.
  • Untethered holographic devices that projects high-definition holograms directly into the user’s field of vision. Used to bring augmented reality and holographic technology into practical computing.
  • Wearable smart compression suits that provide body movement tracking technology in 3D.
  • Heads-up display units capable of 2D and 3D viewing at a 75-degree angle. Comes with integrated earbuds for an immersive experience. Able to track head movements and stereoscopic head-mounted cameras.
  • Water-resistant wearable devices that detect alcohol level of the user by measuring the level of alcohol in perspiration.
  • Wearable devices designed to address truck driver fatigue and distraction.
  • Smart caps designed to monitor fatigue of wearer. Connected to remote display that alert the operator and relay visual and audio alarm if wearer starts to fall asleep. Uses small EEG sensors that detect electric signals from the brain.
  • Wearable devices for geolocating personnel and equipment. Designed to provide security and safety for employees that work in dangerous environments such as mine sites.
  • Wearable glasses that project information needed to assemble complex devices. Gives user the ability to send and receive audio and video instruction from off-site specialists.
  • Shirts that keep firefighters, surgeons and pilots cool and comfortable. Prevents heat-related illness and death in extreme temperatures. Uses portable CO2 tank.
  • Lightweight bio smart watch equipped with SOS safety alert that syncs wireless data to online logs.
  • Wearable glasses that display incoming and send outgoing emails, notifications and text messages using Bluetooth technology.
  • GPS-enabled bracelet that uses GSM cellular networks to transmit location data when an alarm is triggered.
  • Wearable point-of-view (POV) recording devices mounted to glasses, headband, helmet, cap, epaulette or collar. Geared toward law enforcement.

Cyber security and data privacy are important issues that have been raised related to workplace wearables. Employees have expressed concern about who sees the data and how it might be used against them. Employers need to be cognizant of security measures as well as policies that require aggregate data be used for decision making in order to protect the identity of individual workers.

There is a tremendous opportunity for wearables in the workplace of the future. However, it is imperative security measures and privacy policies are developed and monitored in order to ensure data is kept secure and workers’ privacy is not invaded. Workplace wearables demonstrate a company’s commitment to its employees. They reduce financial, operational and legal challenges associated with workplace injuries. Workplace wearables help maximize the productivity and morale of employees, building a more competent, committed and healthier workforce.

At Lanier Upshaw, we invite you to explore the upside of risk. We use advocacy, expertise and service to turn your business risks into rewards. Contact us here to learn more about how we can help your business prepare for the future with innovative insurance solutions.