As devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers become more mainstream, wearable technology continues to evolve from the novelty to the commonplace. Innovations in workplace wearables such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and smart worksite clothing are becoming more practical as well. With advancements in the application of this technology occurring virtually every day, safety and health managers can expect to capitalize on these innovations to aid risk control management efforts in the following areas.
Smart PPE and clothing embedded with appropriate sensors can monitor gases, airborne chemicals, radiation levels, humidity, heat, noise, light, impact, and proximity.
Wearable technology can be fitted in a worker’s hard hat or other head wear that monitors brainwaves and measures real-time fatigue levels via Bluetooth technology to warn the user of impending hazardous micro-sleep.
Smart PPE can notify workers with verbal, visual, or tactile alerts to evacuate when hazardous exposure levels have been exceeded (e.g., when a break from a heat stressing environment is needed).
Hearing protective headsets are now available that not only protect the user from general noise overexposure, but also provides selective noise cancelling and enhanced speech range sound delivery, all while maintaining 360º situational awareness.
Workers equipped with wearable location transmitters can be precisely located in the event of emergency. These devices can be user activated or passively detect falls or the cessation of motion - delivering distress signals to supervising coworkers or emergency responders. Precise location signals detected by emergency responders can expedite rescue and minimize responder time in a potentially hazardous or isolated environment.
Emergency responders are themselves benefiting from Smart PPE and wearables. In-mask thermal imaging can provide hands-free situational awareness in the form of visual hot/cold spot indicators useful in real-time decision making in hazardous environments, like fire sources or compressed gas leaks.
Advancements in the practical applications of this technology are already enhancing the risk management field. While current and future users must evaluate any additional risks that may be introduced by these advancements, safety and health managers will find their efforts benefit from leveraging this technology to assist in preventing loss and managing their risk more effectively.
Robert (Bob) Roe is the Director of Old Republic Risk Management’s loss control function. He is responsible for coordination of policyholder loss control services with an emphasis on carrier service compliance in regulated jurisdictions. Robert is located at ORRM's corporate offices in Brookfield, Wisconsin.