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Leveraging wearables to improve worker safety

What are some features, benefits and examples of wearable technology in the workplace?

Photo: Igor Borisenko/iStockphoto

Responding is Mark Faenza, vice president of sales, onsites, Concentra, Addison, TX.

According to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industries in the United States reported roughly 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020. Many employers in various industries are formulating plans to lower these numbers, but some conventional solutions haven’t reduced the number of workplace incidents enough to make a substantial impact. Recently, innovation in the wearable technology space has led to enhanced employee safety solutions designed to mitigate work injury risks, increase productivity and improve the overall work experience for better employee retention.

Wearables and injury prevention

Wearables can monitor employee movements and alert co-workers of danger, as well as monitor fatigue, body temperature and repetitive motion. The data compiled by wearables can assist in health management and be leveraged to improve employee training and ergonomics for workplace wellness and injury prevention programs.

Many of the technologies developed are specific to an employer’s industry. For example, construction industry wearables include smart helmets with vibration sensors that alert employees of potentially dangerous changes in their surroundings. High-tech vests also have sensors that can alert construction employees when they’re near a hazardous area. For an industry that historically generates a high volume of reported workplace injuries, this technology has the potential to pay huge dividends.

In manufacturing, wearable technology can sense when employees are in the vicinity of heavy machinery (such as forklifts), where the risk of injury is greater. Wearables with proximity sensors also alert equipment operators of the presence of other workers.

Benefits of wearable technology

Some of the benefits of wearable technology can yield positive and tangible results for a company’s workers’ compensation program and bottom line. Some of the more notable benefits include:

  • Fewer OSHA recordables
  • Increased productivity
  • Better employee wellness management
  • Lower overall workers’ comp claims costs

By leveraging data compiled by wearable technology, employers are better positioned to foster a safe workplace culture. Wearable technology can collect and deliver data with robust and actionable reports, equipping company leaders and onsite health clinicians with data points to reduce biomechanical risk factors for employees and facilities, and develop strategies that improve employee well-being and performance.

Wearables’ impact on workers’ comp

The endgame for employers is to reduce the number of workplace injuries and illnesses. By equipping employees with devices that enable them to work more efficiently, employers are also helping to avoid workplace incidents and subsequent claims. Additionally, the data collected by wearable devices can help deliver next-level care coordination and real-time medical management that benefits employees, employers and their payors in the workers’ comp ecosystem.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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