Using data to predict risk, prevent injuries and avoid fatalities is not a new concept. Meteorologists have been gathering and analyzing weather data for centuries and today they can predict, with a relatively high degree of accuracy, increases in the threat of severe weather. It’s not just one factor, like wind or heat, but instead it’s a confluence of a variety of factors that, when present, increase the likelihood of bad weather. Early warning systems and weather radios have saved countless lives, and all of this was possible because of extensive amounts of data gathering that began long ago.
The job sites of today are extremely complex. Large-scale construction sites and gigantic manufacturing operations are full of moving equipment, machines and, most importantly, people.
Every day, those individuals show up on the job site and throughout their shift they have an experience that is completely unique to them.
The environmental conditions they experience are unique. The energy they expend is unique. The exposure to risk they experience is unique.
Hidden within those unique experiences is the data that can begin to tell an important story that will lead to fewer injuries, fewer fatalities, longer working lives, increased productivity and decreased physical exertion.
According to a 2020 Markets to Markets report, the industrial wearables space is expected to grow to nearly $9 billion by 2024. Projections like these are based on surveys of companies across the globe.
That projection shows that significant investment is expected to be made in finding new data sources to improve Environment, Health & Safety and operations.
Here are just a couple of examples of companies using wearable-device data to identify potential risks and make simple changes resulting in a significant impact:
Weiler, a construction equipment maker based in Knoxville, Iowa, deployed wearable devices to better understand the physical force across the many different job roles in the facility.
After just eight weeks of gathering data, the company saw that several of its job roles were significantly higher in physical exertion and repetitive motion than the managers had expected.
After further observing people in those roles, the managers were able to re-engineer the tasks to be less physically demanding on the workers.
Tom’s Quality Millwork, in Campbellsport, Wis., deployed wearables across its workforce and found that Volitile Organic Compounds (VOC) and carbon dioxide levels were heightened at the beginning of the workday.
By turning on ventilation systems an hour prior to workers arriving on site, the company was able to reduce workers’ exposure to VOC and carbon dioxide.
As broad-based adoption of wearable technology grows, it is not a stretch to think that in a few short years we will have enough predictive data that we can dramatically reduce workplace injuries and fatalities.
There’s no siren that sounds before a worker herniates a disc or trips and breaks their wrist on a concrete floor, or worse.
But there is data that can tell us when the probability is increasing.
Gathering that data is the first step in sending more of our workforce home safe and sound at the end of the day.
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