Reducing risk through wearable technology

Wearable Technology
Wearable technology is a hot new trend in the corporate world tracking, monitoring and providing risk workers’ activities while on the job. The goal is to use this data to determine the risk of injury and prioritize opportunities for improvement, such as engineering solutions, administrative/training enhancements or job modification.

Some of the devices currently used include wearable sensors in watches, belts or personal protective equipment, geographic sensors that show the location of employees or help labeling dangerous areas in a workplace. Clothing designed with sensors track body movements and help identify at-risk posture or harmful muscle movements. Wearable pagers track location, position, and poor or dangerous body movement while virtual reality goggles and head-mounted displays that can alert workers to environmental hazards and even cue product/inventory for order picking and packing.

Currently, there are several industries that have integrated some sort of wearable technology into their daily work environment to help keep workers safer and healthier. Companies have several options to choose from to help them identify the biggest exposure for the worker and the best solution to reduce that exposure.

Examples of industries using wearables include:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Material handling
  • Distribution
  • Retail
  • Aviation
  • Healthcare
  • Transportation

These devices are here to stay, so it is best to carefully evaluate the benefits and risks that go along with wearable technology.

Because the technology is continually evolving and improving, there is still a lot of debate as to how it can best be used and sustained in the commercial/industrial sector. However, these devices are here to stay, so it is best to carefully evaluate the benefits and risks that go along with wearable technology.

Current trends for wearable technology target general health metrics (e.g. heart rate, pulse and sleep patterns), musculoskeletal activity (e.g., high-risk posture and forces) and ambient environmental quality (e.g., noise, heat and humidity). One of the key selling points of wearable technology is the data and what it shows, from real-time metrics to aggregate dashboards. Another key offering of many wearable technology vendors is geotracking, which can track employee movements and locations. Industries such as construction and transportation use this type of technology to ensure that employees stay on task and can be accounted for in all areas of a job site, especially lone workers. These devices can also track dangerous areas of a job site and send alerts to supervisors when an employee has entered a high-risk area.

The number of vendors offering wearable technology devices continues to grow exponentially, as does the variety of devices offered. All of these vendors differ in terms of types of devices, what the device targets, the kind of data that exists and how much they cost. These are all details that clients and consultants need to consider when looking into these options to ensure that the client is investing in the right devices to bring value to the business. A few of the key players that Lockton has built relationships with are listed below.

Vendor List

The interest in wearable technology with the insurance field continues to gain ground. Many insurance companies are starting to test devices and research how they may bring value to customers. As this field continues to evolve and new technology is developed, the insurance industry may see value if the data shows evidence that wearable devices are positively impacting injuries and claims. As of now, the field is extremely broad and the data continues to be analyse to answer these questions. Lockton works closely with our clients to help position their risk mitigation with carriers, so we will use wearable technology, where applicable, to tell this larger story.

The cost of wearable technology devices varies significantly. Dependent upon the vendor chosen, some offer more flexible packages for businesses with a higher number of employees. Other vendors may have a minimum number of employees that is required for wearable technology use.

First step would be to engage two to three vendors to determine their level of partnership dependent upon costs associated with wearable technology as aligned with a client’s exposure.

In most cases, the client owns all the data. The client can share the data with a partnering insurance carrier or broker and will typically give access to the vendor to help review analytics of the data to make improvement.

Wearable technology is very new, and currently there is not a lot of data that will indicate the level of the return on investment. However, many vendors are collecting their own data and have written white papers indicating the reduction of injuries due to wearing a selected device. As wearable technology becomes more infiltrated within industries and additional data is collected, we can assist our clients in determining if an investment in wearable technology will result in saving opportunities for the client. Lockton can assist by reviewing all the options for wearable technology devices with a vendor to determine the best choice for the type of industry our client is in. Wearable technology will be considered ergonomic equipment, and the success of the ROI will be based on average MSD losses, number of employees, purchase price and anticipated efficiency/productivity improvements.

According to carriers planning to offer wearable technology devices as part of an insurance package, wearable technology does not affect insurance rates. Carriers state that they use the data to help the client identify patterns to help reduce their exposures. Since the client owns the data, there is every indication that the carrier will not use the results of the wearable technology as an opportunity to increase rates.

Safety culture can be affected positively when the results of wearable technology is used in a preventive way rather than reactive.

The sole purpose of investing in a wearable device is to use it as a leading indicator to help prevent injuries or potential safety hazards. Safety culture can be affected positively when the results of wearable technology is used in a preventive way rather than reactive. Access to such real-time knowledge of their own performance may influence more employees to become accountable for their own safety, the safety of others and the protection of company assets.

With the wearables market expanding and changing, it opens up great opportunities for clients to further a culture of safety. Before implementing this technology, it is important to examine your needs, available analytics and the various types of devices to determine what will help you achieve your business objectives.

For further information, please contact: 

Tim Balmer, CPHT, COEE
Senior Loss Control Consultant
Email: TBalmer@lockton.com
Tel.: +1 816 960 9947

Jennifer L. Law, CPE, SMS, IDSA
Senior Loss Control Consultant
Ergonomics Practice Leader
Email: JLaw@lockton.com
Tel.: +1 704 556 4179
 

 

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