Businesses are spending considerable resources to prevent workplace injuries. Some are turning to technology to promote behavioural improvements, identify risk and monitor employees. Wearable technology, more specifically smartwatches have become popular in the last decade and one reason is that they have integrated sensors in them, including accelerometers.
Smartwatches can used to measure movement, body temperature and heart rates. Wearables can be used for continuous monitoring and measurement over time, as well as warning or training devices to detect motion and physical activity, recognition of musculoskeletal injuries, fall detection, evaluation of exposure to physical agents, evaluation of exposure to chemical agents and the location of potential hazards, for example, moving equipment.
Wearable devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to be used as part of integrated risk management systems.
Recent research evaluated three smartwatches and their capabilities to provide rich data that could be used to provide alerts to keep employees safe and reduce workplace injury.
Smart watches can monitor physical activity
For monitoring occupational physical activity, smartwatches can detect sleep, heart rate, body movement and posture. They can identify specialised manual activities and interaction in the work environment using gestures.
Wearables and IoT devices can be used to supervise, raise awareness and send emergency alerts to employees to promote safer labour practices and safe work environments.
These studies show that the IoT approach can be used in sensors, tools, and workers using wearables for constant monitoring and real-time alerting.
All of this technology supports the improvement of the management of workplace safety in an effort to reduce workplace injury.
Smart watches can predict workplace falls
Falls lead to serious workplace injury and these hazards are often present for employees working in industries such as construction, mining and those working in and on plant and equipment.
The study found that automatic fall detection is another application in which wearable accelerometers have been extensively used. The results showed that wearables have advantages over environmental sensor systems, such as better mobility, extended spatial coverage, easier installation and use.
Smartwatches are a viable solution for fall detection mainly due to their low cost. However, there are concerns as to the precision in the sensors and the reduced range in which the sensors are programmed by default.
For work-related fall detection, it’s been found that it’s possible to identify daily activities and detect falls with a smartwatch placed on the left hand using different pattern classiﬁcation algorithms. A limitation is, the position of the device on the wrist can decrease system performance due to random movements of the hand.
Smartwatches can measure body vibration
Research has shown that it’s feasible to use some smartwatch models for the evaluation of vibrations that affect the body. It’s been identiﬁed that smartwatches have a sufﬁcient precision to analyse and detect the vibration emitted from several kinds of tools.
With the simultaneous use of a smartwatch’s microphone, 85% of the overall vibration detection rate can been achieved. Smartwatches can be used as an option for providing general information about hand-arm vibrations and physical activities. However, to provide an accurate assessment of hand-arm vibration, there are limitations in the frequency and amplitude range of these devices.
High quality interactive training
This study showed that wearables such as smartwatches and IoT can assist in the reduction of workplace injury by monitoring physical activity, predicting workplace falls and measuring body vibration to some extent. However, technology cannot ‘think’ for the employee and training on the safest way to work is essential for any business tackling workplace safety improvements and a reduction in workplace injury.
Research across a number of disciplines shows that engagement and interactivity are key to embedded knowledge and influence on work health and safety behaviour (click here for research on the effectiveness of using mobile devices to train). The Tap Into Safety solution offers interactive and engaging workplace health and safety training that is delivered via smart devices and online.
As a business, we are embracing the enhancements in technology. Our training isn’t numerous PowerPoint slides shown to a group of employees followed by a paper questionnaire at the end. We use real workplace photographic, panoramic examples that workers relate to because it shows their work sites. We are using animation and gaming technology to enhance training to engage employees. Training is delivered in 15 minute or less modules and can be accessed by sub-contractors with their competencies verified before they step foot on site.
Even if you aren’t quite ready to embrace smartwatches, it’s time to start thinking about your workplace health and safety training and speak to us today about how we can work with you to improve it.