Andrew Cheung and David Vuong of Cority spoke in a webinar for EHS Today about how technology can ease the friction of reporting exposure risks and empower employees.
Cheung started the presentation by discussing the range of exposure risks that employers need to consider, everything from ergonomics and trip and fall hazards to aerosols and toxins.
“Industrial hygienists must create exposure assessments and sampling plans to monitor for this, but workers are also exposed to wellness-related risks,” Cheung explained. “These may not be things that we traditionally think of, but they do affect health as well. These are things like drug abuse, cardiovascular disease, depression, sleep disorders, obesity, etcetera.” He explained further that absenteeism and presenteeism – meaning the worker is present but that their productivity is decreased – can be caused by all three types of risks.
Cheung noted that grappling with such problems costs American businesses $2.3 trillion a year, or 12 percent of GDP and can be broken down as follows:
- $1,100b – cost of chronic disease
- $250b – cost of workplace injuries and illnesses
- $300b – cost of work-related stress
- $550b – cost of disengagement at work
Cheung highlighted poor data management, legacy systems, and manual inputs as methods that exacerbate the existing exposure risks, as well as increase administrative burden. “This can make it hard to analyze data about employee health,” Cheung said. “And then on the flipside from a program perspective, if management asks you to prove that your wellness programs are effective, it’s hard to report that if data isn’t streamlined.” Difficulty tracking regulations and the security of employee specifics are also at risk, according to Cheung. He recommends EHS software to increase efficiency and analysis.
Vuong took on the specifics of software and how that can then connect to wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) in his portion of the presentation. “When we think about what belongs to the realm of IoT, there’s overlap between wearables and IoT,” Vuong explained. He cited vehicle telemetry reducing car insurance premiums as an example of overlap in the commercial space.
For employee wellness, a similar venn diagram of manifests itself. “Personal exposure monitors worn by an individual which measure fine particles that can then transfer the data wirelessly are one example,” Vuong said. Fall detection wearables with GPS locators and geo-fencing for remote workers are also safety features to manage exposure risks.
To deploy these types of devices, Vuong explained, is as simple as creating hubs via Bluetooth connected to the wearables that then feed the data wirelessly to the back office with the appropriate software.
However, there are additional considerations for using technology to manage exposure risks, which Cheung discussed. “Research from the University of Texas showed that drivers using wearables had almost as high of an accident rate as those using cell phones,” he said. “Also, the ecosystem for wearables and the Internet of Things is still very immature, which means there’s not a lot of industry best practices, subject matter experts and third party providers. There’s also not many globally recognized vendors and protocols.”
Citing research from Deloitte, Cheung noted further that health data privacy and concern from workers about surveillance and discrimination based on health data from wearables is top of mind for on-the-ground employees. He recommended anonymizing and aggregating data to address these concerns, as well as establishing and communicating usage guidelines.
Finally, Cheung ended the webinar by discussing why this type of technology is becoming more relevant. A combination of the regulatory push to address worker health and safety, the increasing expense of wellness-related problems in the workplace, and the aging of the workforce are all driving the switch to more data and better data analysis.
Interested in how technology is driving the fourth industrial revolution through wearables and other safety tech? Join us for Spotlight on Solutions 2019 on June 27th at the House of Blues New Orleans. Louisiana Comp Blog’s second annual tech symposium will address this and more tech that can augment productivity in the workers’ compensation space. Full details and registration here.
Image Credit: Advanced Health & Safety