Unlocking Employee Safety: Harnessing the Power of Data

Unlocking Employee Safety: Harnessing the Power of Data

Every year, as we delve into stats related to workplace incidents, the numbers and types of incidents continue to astound me.

In the UK alone, 2023 saw a concerning 55% rise in incidents in the construction industry, 5% more firefighters injured on duty compared to the previous year, and over 35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and injuries.

Worse still, annual fatalities remain in the hundreds. Tragically, 135 workers lost their lives in work-related accidents in the UK in 2022/23 – a 12-fatality increase from the preceding year.

These are not just statistics. Behind each lies a story of personal loss and potentially preventable tragedies. The National Safety Council (NSC) reported some such cases highlighted in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 2023 “most interesting cases” report.

One instance involved a polypropylene product manufacturer employee who lost her life after being pulled into a roller machine. Another incident saw an archaeological worker die of a heat-related illness on her first day on the job.

In this case, the company had no acclimatisation process for employees, its heat safety plan only briefly mentioned rest “when needed”, and no work/rest schedule was established. At the same time, supervisors and co-workers lacked the knowledge and training to recognise symptoms of heat-related illness.

These are not isolated incidents. They’re glaring examples of devastating accidents that still occur despite stringent safety protocols and guidance.

The power of data-driven safety measures

Smart safety solutions fuelled by precise data

Informed policies and processes

Employee engagement and building trust

Prioritising personal privacy

Data security

The power of data-driven safety measures

It’s heartbreaking to consider that some of these incidents may have been avoided or minimised if organisations had access to actionable, real-time data and were equipped to act upon it.

In the case of the archaeologist, early detection of heat stress symptoms and prompt intervention could have averted a medical emergency. The polypropylene company could have benefitted from motion or fall detection alerts to protect the worker.

By leveraging advanced technologies and harnessing powerful, real-time data they provide, organisations can proactively mitigate risks and foster safer working conditions for their teams.

Smart safety solutions fuelled by precise data

Bodytrak® is one option. Our in-ear solution accurately monitors physiological data like core body temperature, heart rate, heart rate variability, motion and noise exposure levels to protect users from incidents caused by heat stress, fatigue, and noise exposure.

Once data is captured via the in-ear sensors, proprietary algorithms analyse it against baseline thresholds to provide individualised insights and alerts for each user. Alerts allow immediate intervention if the wearer’s metrics fall outside of normal thresholds.

Informed policies and processes

Importantly, data and insights build up over time to allow companies to make more informed decisions, predict future thresholds, and improve processes and policies regarding workplace practice and productivity.

In the case of the archaeologist, the team’s lack of access to real-time physiological data and knowledge led to disastrous consequences. If they had policies and processes informed by data and insights, they could have better ensured all employees were equipped with the knowledge and tools to prevent, respond to and deal with incidents effectively.

Employee engagement and building trust

Successfully Implementing innovations like this, however, hinges on employee trust and participation.

As consumers, we broadly understand the risks around data, and many of us have experienced data privacy breaches of brands we interact with. And, we’re usually more comfortable parting with our data when we perceive value in return.

For example, I’m more than happy to give my smartwatch provider certain personal and health information for insight into my well-being. But I’m less pleased for a food delivery app to access my photos, contacts and microphone.

This is why organisations implementing data-driven innovations must establish watertight data security and privacy protocols and policies, and effectively engage employees on the broad value of wearing such devices.

Prioritising personal privacy…

Employees can be concerned about “Big Brother” watching their every move. This is why data about each user is best anonymised to protect their privacy. Companies can use non-personal identifiers for usernames of employees wearing monitoring devices instead of the users’ actual names.

This is useful when real-time data indicates a threshold is about to be reached. Bodytrak immediately alerts the user that there is a potential risk. Tailored access levels mean that only people with authorised access within the organisation can view the information.

At Bodytrak, we do not report any personal information by default. However, companies can use personal information to identify a user, for example, if they need to comply with data protection regulations or opt to use the alert-based system.

…And data security

To successfully implement such technologies and drive critical data-driven safety measures, organisations must safeguard sensitive physiological data and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.

At Bodytrak, we secure data collection and protection by encrypting systems and data end-to-end (at rest, in transit and in the cloud) using industry-standard protocols. We take a proactive approach to data security, automating vulnerability scanning and patch management, and deliver advanced, real-time threat detection to constantly identify and neutralise potential risks. We only collect necessary physiological information directly relevant to safety and provide comprehensive training on data security practices for all users.

Data insights could significantly benefit industries like utilities, oil and gas, mining and others where employees operate in higher-risk environments. 

By emphasising the value of data-driven safety measures and articulating how data is utilised to enhance workplace safety, companies can increase employee engagement and promote the adoption of safety technologies like Bodytrak. Ultimately, users tend to forget they are wearing Bodytrak – it works as an unobtrusive guardian angel.

Written by Leon Marsh, Founder & CEO of Bodytrak (14 February 2024)

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