Reducing Risk with Wearable Technology

Look down at your wrist… are you wearing a FiBit, Garmin, iWatch or some other wearable technology? In all likelihood, you are wearing one right now or you at least have one hidden away in a drawer somewhere. According to an article in Forbes, one in six consumers currently own and use wearable tech. In addition, growth in the wearables market is expected to increase 35% by 2019.

Companies are beginning to test wearables in basic use cases like workplace security access, employee time management, and real-time employee communication.

This trend is also working its way into the construction industry. In fact, I’d venture to say that every company that has worker compensation exposure would be interested in finding a way to put controls in place for jobsite exposures. Traditionally companies have used hardhats, harnesses and stricter safety regulations, which have worked to improve the safety of worksites over the past century.

However, even with these controls in place there are still too many workplace injuries and deaths. Recently, quite a few carriers in the insurance industry have looked for ways to help. One of the most promising products they have been exploring is wearable technology.

With this technology, companies will be able to partner with insurance carriers to create comprehensive safety ecosystems to:

  • Reduce workplace injuries
  • Improve operational efficiencies
  • Generate real-time data that can be used to predict and reduce risk

 

Mike Castelli from AIG visited the Lovitt & Touché Learning Academy to share his knowledge of wearable technology as it relates to risk management.

Castelli maintains that when it comes to hazards and job incidents, we need to focus on the action. It’s not necessarily the cracked ladder that caused the fall, but the worker who noticed the crack, but used the ladder anyway.

There are several regulations and safety best-practices in place, but they don’t mean a thing if the workers are not following them. How are we handling the behavior? How do we change behavior? Of course, we need to demand a safe work environment and hold people accountable.

Castelli shared with us a root cause analysis that showed the responsibility for safety incidents are as follows:

  1. Human error
  2. Management flaw
  3. Equipment failure
  4. Environment

Notice, number 1 is human error, and number 2 is management flaw. The root cause is human behavior.

The key very well may be wearable technology. With wearable tech, you can gather the data and analyze it to find out where your hazards might be. When you have the data, you can explore what is known as the “Hierarchy of Controls” to address the issue: Eliminate the hazard, substitute with a less hazardous process, engineer it out, use administrative controls and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

However, you will always have residual risk because you will always have people on the job.

How can wearable tech help on a jobsite?

Here are a few examples:

A jackhammer operator who is not holding his hammer at the correct angle can be immediately corrected due to a notification from his wearable. This could save him years of back pain.

The wearable can tell you where your workers are located and how many are on the jobsite. It may helps with scheduling, showing you exactly how many workers you actually need on a project.

It can capture elevation. For example, if a worker’s wearable shows he is above 6 feet, a notification can go out to the supervisor to head over and make sure they’re tied off.

One of the biggest challenges with wearable technology in construction is getting unions and construction companies to sign off on and purchase the devices.

One of the ways that technology developers are getting construction executives interested in wearable technology is by not creating anything new that workers would have to wear. For example, a safety vest is a common piece of construction equipment, but it can also contain small cameras and GPS equipment to help track workers if they get lost on a work site and to see how a worker was injured.

The possibilities are endless, and all indications are pointing to wearable technology becoming commonplace on jobsites in the very near future.

 

A big thank you goes out to Mike Castelli for sharing his knowledge with us!

If you have any questions about wearable technology use in construction, please contact your Lovitt & Touché representative.