An elephant in the room, the current human and cost burden of safety & health at work
According to the European Union, some 476 billion euros is lost each year in Europe due to work-related ill-health and injury. Wearables used at work, enabled by cloud computing and artificial intelligence, can be a cost-effective way to capture accurate and real-time data from workers and their environments that will help industrial companies manage emergencies and prevent accidents. In the 20th century, companies made many improvements in health and safety through non-digital equipment and systems, but nowadays, the gains have slowed down.
The beginning, wearable-driven emergency systems for lone workers
People working in dangerous areas will be able to use wearables or devices sewn into boots, shirts and helmets to transmit data about their location, vital signs, and environmental factors that indicate stress, such as high or low temperatures. We believe that at some point, health and safety systems based on wearables will replace so-called “man-down,” or fall-detection processes or devices, that companies use now. Those currently in use only work when rules are followed explicitly and additional items (like devices) are put on.
One reason workers may tend to avoid the devices currently in use is that they generate false positives – e.g. false alarms. That becomes annoying, so some workers choose not to use the systems and devices at all. This contrasts with wearables that are comfortable to wear because they may even be sewn into a shirt or placed on a helmet. And they are more reliable: They work with artificial intelligence so alerts are more accurate and improve over time.
Leaders expect to double operational efficiency when…
In the interviews conducted by WearHealth, leaders said they expect to double their operational efficiency when lone workers use wearables.
The next step, identification of hidden workload risks
To make the next leap forward in health and safety, companies need more information, for instance about hidden risks. This is exactly where wearable and AI-driven solutions such as WearHealth’s Safety and Health Intelligence can help. For example, wearable devices can measure in real time parameters such as heart rate variability, movement and core body temperature. This can be used to identify risks, such as physical fatigue, mental stress or heat stress. Or data collected by wearables about employees who are doing a specific task can be combined with production information and data about temperatures and room conditions. The combined sources of data can help managers understand where and when accidents happen and make the working environment safer.
In other words, one component of worker’s health is hidden risks, such as heat stress, mental stress, physical load or ergonomic load. With wearables, companies can monitor these risks in real time and proactively help employees manage the risks. This improves worker safety and has a positive effect on the bottom line because workers do not miss as much work due to health reasons, and the new (anonymized) data collected can be fed back into the supply chain to optimize efficiency.
Source: ”Why wearables are an important piece of the puzzle for Industry 4.0”; AT Kearney (Dr. Marc Lakner & Arndt Heinrich) & WearHealth (Dr. Esteban Bayro-Kaiser & Diego Soliño); 2019.