The Top 5 Benefits of Real-Time Data Analytics for Heat Stress Management
Workplace heat stress poses a significant risk to workers and businesses. While some of the symptoms of heat stress can be mild, including nausea, dizziness, and headache, the consequence of heat stress can become much more extreme when left unchecked. In fact, excessive workplace heat can lead to severe health conditions for workers, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.
Thankfully, as technology advances, so does our ability to gain deeper insight into the risks confronting workforces today. Many companies are using that knowledge to fight back against heat stress. In this article, we will explore the top five ways modern technology and real-time data analytics can help organisations manage the risk of heat stress and proactively prevent heat-related illness.
Real-time data analytics significantly benefits heat stress management by detecting and addressing issues before they become serious incidents and/or health concerns. New wearable devices continuously track vitals such as core body temperature, heart rate and other responses to hazardous conditions. Preset and configurable thresholds can be used to determine when vital signs exceed safe levels, with alerts provided to the user, their supervisor and health and safety manager to enable intervention. Cloud enabled solutions can provide alerts via digital dashboards for direct monitoring, and via SMS/email to support supervisors operating in the field.
Solutions with geolocation add an additional level of assurance by locating workers who are in need of rapid assistance. All data can be collected in a centralised platform to enable comprehensive reporting features that are accessible by key stakeholders. Reports can be used for internal compliance and provide key insights to identify hazards in the workplace and carry out a continuous and automated risk assessment.
Data analytics can also uncover specific areas of the facility’s operation that are much more hazardous than anticipated, and can adjust processes and policies accordingly. These same companies can begin to apply new administrative controls such as implementing different work schedules, additional breaks, and other heat stress management strategies. All of these work together to prevent heat-related illnesses. Workers experiencing heat-related symptoms will no longer fall through the cracks due to lack of detection and support; technology will see and sound the alarm when it is required.
Using real-time data companies can take a personalised approach to employee interventions with heat-related illnesses. We all know that no two people are alike, and some may have unique risk factors, like pre-existing conditions, that make them more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
For instance, a 50-year-old construction worker with heart disease is at a much greater risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses than a 20-year-old acclimatised coworker with a clean bill of health. Equally, new recruits who are yet to acclimatise are at high risk, since they are not familiar with the warning signs of heat stress. While this seems logical, organisations often apply a uniform safety process for managing and protecting their workers from heat stress, but wearable technology is changing this.
Individuals react differently to increased temperatures and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t provide sufficient protection for all employees. Implementing wearable technology to capture real-time data, ensures companies can monitor each individual’s unique physiological response to heat stress and customise interventions based on the information and make well-informed decisions.
Suppose a worker’s physiological response is showing the signs of heat stress more rapidly than their coworkers while working in the same environment. With real-time data and alerts for each individual, supervisors and leadership teams will be able to intervene earlier and respond accordingly, remove the employee from the area, and administer rest, water, and shade. They can also make operational decisions to adjust the individual’s work schedule or location to accommodate their needs. Through personalised interventions, companies are not just reacting to heat stress but are now managing it effectively and making informed decisions.
The adverse effects of heat stress are significant, not only from a health and well-being standpoint, but also for workplace productivity. This is one of the many reasons why real-time data can be extremely beneficial, as it can highlight the impact heat stress can have on workplace performance, an often overlooked side effect.
When issues of heat stress are identified early, personalised interventions for workers can be provided based on their needs. By doing so, organisations can proactively prevent the adverse effects of heat stress, including fatigue, cognitive decline, and irritability—the results of which contribute to a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace.
Workers that are not suffering from heat stress are more likely to be focused, productive, alert, and effective. These benefits can result in a boost to morale in workplace culture and a positive workplace environment. As a result, companies may also see a reduction in employee turnover and fewer lost work days, contributing to a more profitable and productive business.
The early detection and intervention of heat-related issues can have significant cost savings for companies. When heat-related illnesses are prevented, organisations eliminate the cost and operational implications associated with it. Workplace injuries are costly for companies and come with a long list of direct and indirect costs. When we consider how much workplace injuries cost, we often think of medical bills and insurance first. However, long-term implications like productivity need to be factored in when reviewing total costs.
Operations may need to shut down after a severe workplace heat-related injury to deal with compliance and regulatory and legal matters. However, the consequences on productivity do not end that day; now the organisation is down a person, at least for a period of time, and that position needs to be backfilled, which can take time. In addition, supervisors and managers may now be spending hours focusing on resolving the incident instead of focusing on the organisation’s main goals and priorities.
Heat-related incidents can result in lawsuits, compensation claims, regulatory fines and negative implications on an organisation’s brand reputation. The negative perception and unwanted reputation could affect a company’s ability to secure future work and the opportunity to retain and recruit top talent. In addition, a higher risk rating will impact commercial insurance.
With real-time data analytics in wearable devices acting as a new type of insurance policy, companies can’t afford not to review their cost and productivity benefits.
Compliance with workplace safety regulations is a legal requirement of any business. As governments worldwide continue to increase their emphasis on heat stress regulations, companies also need to increase their efforts to reduce the associated risks. Those that don’t, may start to receive unwanted attention from regulators.
After a heat-related incident, inspectors will likely audit the organisation to understand what went wrong and enforce improvement-programmes to prevent incidents reoccurring. If they find anything out of compliance, they could shut down operations, and the company could face heavy fines. This could be hugely costly and affect customer and supplier relationships, as well as shareholder confidence.
Companies that implement real-time data analytics can monitor and manage heat stress-related factors much more effectively. By doing so, they can ensure that they are meeting and exceeding regulations and safety guidelines. Real-time data and wearable technology allow companies to track several parameters, such as core body temperature, heart rate and workload, all in real-time, which is essential when assessing workers’ heat stress conditions.
Effective heat illness prevention regulations and programmes have specific safe-threshold limits. By constantly monitoring heat stress risk, companies can make adjustments when necessary to make their heat stress mitigation practices more effective. Also, implementing wearable technology and real-time data shows regulators that the organisation is taking the threat of occupational heat stress seriously.
As global temperatures continue to rise, so does the urgency to address the adverse health effects of workplace heat stress. Companies that take a modern approach and leverage real-time data from wearable technology, like Bodytrak, are better prepared to manage the threat, reduce costs and create a safer, more productive workplace in the process.
Bodytrak is currently the only non-invasive, ear-based device on the market. Through several in-ear sensors, it provides continuous, discreet real-time monitoring and incident prevention by accurately monitoring core body temperature, heart rate, physiological strain index, fatigue levels, noise exposure, and fall detection.
By providing valuable, data-driven insights into each workers’ physiological responses to extreme conditions, Bodytrak empowers organisations to intervene when necessary, preventing injuries and fatalities. The real-time data and insights offered by Bodytrak significantly improve safety and productivity in the workplace, and lead to large cost-savings. Over a 3 year subscription contract, customers can expect a 925% ROI with almost $10,000 saved each year per user, based on the average cost of injuries that will be prevented across the entire workforce.
Help your organisation today and discover how Bodytrak can help your company combat the dangers of heat stress by scheduling a demo today.
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