Trends in ... wearables
‘An extra layer of protection’
In relation to the workplace, what does the term “wearables” mean? According to Safety+Health Associate Editor Alan Ferguson’s March 2019 article:
“In the safety world, ‘wearables’ can include ‘smart’ personal protective equipment, glasses with heads-up displays and hard hats with sensors. What most of these devices have in common is they give safety professionals and other employees a set of watchful eyes to help ensure the health and well-being of the workforce, particularly lone workers.”
Here, Jacob Spector, product marketing manager, portables, for Smithfield, RI-based Honeywell Industrial Safety, and Kevan Orvitz, founder of Tustin, CA-based MEGAComfort, discuss advancements in wearables and how these technologies are helping keep workers safe.
Wearable technology is all about data, and collecting real-time location data of workers through GPS is becoming a key value when reacting to emergency situations or, more importantly, preventing incidents, Spector noted. “It’s becoming more common for intrinsically safe devices such as smartphones, gas detectors and radios to leverage GPS signals and data,” he said. “This development opens up a whole new world of possibilities from the standpoint of worker protection.”
This technology also is in places you may not expect, such as in workers’ shoes. “Anti-fatigue insoles combine state-of-the-art sensors, which provide performance data, step-by-step analysis in real time, sit-stand activity ratio, and the ability to compare data based on footwear, floor surface and activity type in mind,” Orvitz said. “It is an affordable work-life wellness product that allows companies to maximize employee engagement and reduce health care costs, and individuals to live a healthier lifestyle.”
A common concern that tends to come up when people discuss wearables is worker privacy. “Because the devices can track worker location, some workers react out of concerns for their privacy, and so they may hesitate to use the device, or turn it off or not use it at all,” Spector said. To help resolve this, he recommends employers be transparent about how they collect and use the data, all while emphasizing the health and safety benefits for workers. Another way to help ease worker apprehension, Spector said, is to implement “a company policy that collects data anonymously or identifies a worker’s location only during an emergency.”
Ultimately, workers need to understand that wearables are designed for their safety and benefit. “Leveraging connected technology in the wearable devices adds an extra layer of protection for the worker so they can be confident doing their job and go home safe at the end of the day,” Spector said.
Coming next month …
- Instruments and Monitors
- Lone Worker Devices