How Data is Redefining Health and Safety Management

How Data is Redefining Health and Safety Management

In today’s digital age, data reigns supreme. It has already revolutionized industries and created countless opportunities. 

In 2006, British mathematician Clive Humby famously observed that “data is the new oil,” emphasizing its intrinsic value. But Humby warned that, like crude oil, it needs refining to unlock its real potential. That is, we have to analyze data for it to hold meaning. 

Data insights are critical to protecting employees and minimizing workplace injuries. This article discusses the value of personalized data captured by wearable devices in the workplace and how it is helping organizations prevent incidents and fatalities around the world.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it

Despite advancements in workplace safety protocols, preventable incidents continue to plague various industries. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there were 4,695 preventable work deaths in 2022 in the US alone — a 5% increase from 2021 — underscoring the ongoing need for more significant proactive safety measures.  

The trouble is, traditionally, businesses have relied on reactive strategies as they lack the means to predict or prevent incidents before they occur or understand why the incident happened in the first place. 

A study of thousands of accident reports by American industrial safety pioneer Herbert William Heinrich revealed that 98% of workplace accidents are preventable, and only 2% are non-preventable. He found that the reports, completed by supervisors, generally blamed workers for causing accidents, but they hadn’t conducted detailed investigations into the root causes. 

These reports were manually created based on subjective viewpoints rather than hard data. Without reliable data on who is at risk, how each worker responds to their working environment, and what is happening at any given moment, companies are blind to incidents until they happen. 

Some organizations find that employees can hesitate to report issues as they arise. This happens for a number of reasons, including fear of negative consequences, cultural norms or stigma, inadequate training, or unclear reporting channels. Despite this, most organizations welcome open reporting since it improves overall health and safety and prevents underreported concerns and missed opportunities for intervention. 

This is why reliable, actionable data and insight are essential to predicting and preventing incidents.

Collecting the most useful data

This is where Bodytrak® comes in. The unobtrusive, in-ear wearable device captures real-time physiological data — removing the guesswork. Bodytrak collects key physiological metrics such as core body temperature (CBT), heart rate, heart rate variability, and fatigue. It also monitors noise exposure, falls, and location information, providing invaluable insights into workers’ well-being at any given time. 

While workers get on with their daily tasks, the device continually captures crucial information to ensure they operate within safe limits. But, data collection is just the beginning. 

The proprietary algorithms from Bodytrak process this wealth of information against baseline thresholds to generate personalized insights for each user, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach that will be inaccurate for most people. A user-friendly dashboard shows green, amber, and red indicators that identify potential health and safety risks  — like heat stress and fatigue — before they happen. 

An alert is immediately raised if a wearer’s metrics fall outside normal thresholds. This proactive approach enables swift intervention, preventing accidents and safeguarding workers’ health.

Highly customisable for any scenario

Organizations can set their thresholds in accordance with regulations and their agreed-upon internal practices. For example, since heat exhaustion occurs at an internal temperature of 40℃ / 104℉, businesses usually start with industry standards — for example, setting amber indicators at 38℃ / 100.4℉ and red at 38.5℃ / 101.3℉. 

They then consider their operating environment. Where many workers are nearby, thresholds can be higher since co-workers rapidly respond to issues, but they might be more conservative for lone workers, or those working in extreme temperatures. 

The aim is to set the thresholds at a level that alerts the user to take proactive and preventative measures before they notice symptoms that can lead to an incident. While someone feels they’re doing ok, physiologically, fatigue or heat stress may already be setting in. 

Protecting personal privacy

Safeguarding employee privacy is paramount. Organizations can choose to use pseudonyms or numbers in the dashboard so that individuals remain anonymous to all or selected control staff. They can also turn off features such as geolocation when necessary, for example, if privacy policies require it. And Bodytrak does not share any data with third parties. These privacy measures also help foster trust with employees and support adoption. 

Bodytrak uses machine learning (ML) algorithms that analyze past data and individual trends to make the data more accurate. This is vital since everyone’s physiology and reactions to environments differ. This approach accounts for physiological variations without knowing personal details such as age, gender or ethnicity, health status or medical history, ensuring sensitive information remains confidential.

For core body temperature, Bodytrak’s algorithms analyze various inputs, considering past data and short-term trends to improve the accuracy of temperature calculations. For fatigue, ML automatically builds and adapts user profiles to generate a fatigue score based on each user. For fall detection, machine learning continuously monitors and interprets user movement patterns to automatically identify deviations that could indicate an incident. 

Getting smarter with time and context

As more data is captured, Bodytrak can build a more accurate picture of health and safety thresholds as the algorithm understands what is typical for each employee. The algorithms and data can be further refined when combined with context provided by Bodytrak’s in-house physiological experts.

While the solution provides all the raw data, Bodytrak provides an option for selected and trusted HSE managers to reveal the identity of workers experiencing unusual fluctuations in physiological markers. This is so they can ensure they are properly cared for and their work-life is altered while concerns are addressed. This may involve understanding changes in health, circumstance, age, job role, working patterns, and so on. 

Robust data security end-to-end

Bodytrak is also committed to ensuring robust data security. Its encryption protocols safeguard information from unauthorized access in compliance with data protection regulations. This is particularly critical for high-security sectors such as defense and for regions with particularly stringent privacy and data governance regulations.  

Bodytrak secures data collection and protection by encrypting systems and data end-to-end (at rest, in transit and in the cloud) using industry-standard protocols. It takes a proactive approach to data security, automates vulnerability scanning and patch management, and delivers advanced, real-time threat detection to constantly identify and neutralize potential risks. Only necessary physiological information directly relevant to safety is collected, and Bodytrak provides comprehensive training on data security practices for all users.

Options for on-prem and offline

While using a secure public cloud works well for most organizations, it isn’t an option for a few. Some regions’ regulations limit cloud-connected services, while other organizations have privacy controls that disallow them. In these instances, Bodytrak offers an on-premise or air-gapped solution, where the platform runs locally on the organization’s servers. 

A completely offline offering is available for more locked-down organizations. In this case, physiological data is monitored, but in offline mode and not in real-time. No data is visible on the dashboard; rather, it is automatically uploaded after a shift (when the device is put on to charge). 

Employees are kept safe by audio alerts sent only to the wearer when they are at risk. It is critical that the organization provides ample training so that users are aware of protocols to follow and signs to be aware of to remain safe. In this case, the value for businesses is in reporting and identifying trends over time.

Unlocking the value of data

Further analysis and reporting on the data can uncover actionable insights and drive even greater long-term value. Reporting allows HSE managers and industrial hygienists to make more informed decisions, shape policies, and adjust work practices to enhance safety and productivity. 

For example, if, when looking at historical heat stress data, red alerts are consistently high while doing a certain job, HSE managers could reduce shift length, add more breaks, or make sure the job is done during a cooler part of the day. 

The raw data can also be integrated with various other data sources to build a comprehensive understanding of environmental stressors, enabling targeted interventions and optimisation of operational workflows. Take a logistics company, for instance. They can combine the fatigue alerts with data from timesheets, delivery quota volumes and traffic reports to see the most common times for fatigue to set in – e.g. after lunch, at peak times, or in heavy traffic – and adjust operations accordingly. 

Empowering safety through data

The data-driven approach by Bodytrak revolutionizes health and safety management, enabling organizations to mitigate risks and proactively protect their most valuable asset — their employees. By harnessing the power of data analytics, organizations can create safer work environments, foster cultures of well-being, and boost productivity.

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