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Wearable Devices: A New Frontier for Workplace Safety?

We’ve all seen a hanging sign proclaiming some variation of “X Days Accident Free.” Why? The jobs in this environment likely include a physical component, and that means there’s always the risk for an accident. It’s something to celebrate when a workplace is accident-free; it improves employee confidence and morale across the board, plus allows the business to keep operating.

Protecting employees calls for a two-fold approach: preventing accidents ahead of time and covering them with workers’ compensation in case they do occur. Wearable devices aim to detect and avert accidents, putting them at the forefront of workplace safety innovation (and hopefully reducing workers’ compensations claims). These pieces of technology can also monitor employee behavior to see where safety is lacking, so companies can update their workflows to prioritize safety and comfort.

Examples of Wearable Workplace Technology

One Swedish-based workwear supplier, Snickers, has started testing wearable monitoring devices on 100 workers in trade industries. Workers wear a chip that fits into the brand’s work pants that “reports workplace noise levels, heat conditions and knee impact while the tradesperson is working.” From there, the data automatically transmits to the worker’s smartphone. This study in part is meant to address the fact that six out of 10 craftsmen apparently have pain in their knees.

Another application for wearable technology uses sensors—often embedded in helmets, watches or visors—that can alert employees to hazards so they can steer clear and focus on the job at hand. These pieces of technology can even connect and transmit wirelessly to supervisors for reporting or communications purposes.

New Technology, New Risks

Of course, while wearables can help boost safety and productivity in the workforce, business leaders must approach implementation the right way—especially when it comes to employee privacy and cybersecurity. It’s important to make sure that your use of monitoring devices is transparent and legal. For instance, if you’re going to mandate wearables in the workplace, you should inform employees of the job-related reason for collecting certain data up front, as well as the parameters of what you will and won’t collect (and how you will use the information).

Wearable devices tap into the Internet of Things (IoT), meaning that hackers can technically access them. As one security analyst shares with CIO, even fitness trackers can provide geolocation data “minute by minute to the cloud.” Similarly, wearables that connect employees with company data or analytics may be vulnerable to intrusion.

It’s a good rule of thumb to add extra authentication measures and encryption to any devices that connect to company cloud apps or Wi-Fi to prevent a malware or ransomware attack. While cyber insurance is a smart fallback plan for a data breach, it’s much preferable that you can circumvent an attack altogether.

Wearable devices may represent a new frontier for workplace safety, but it’s important to consider cybersecurity and keep employee privacy intact if you do introduce them. They’re also not foolproof; businesses still need workers’ compensation as a backup. Visit CoverHound for a free quote so you can protect your workforce and your organization for the long haul.

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