Texas Mutual Workers' Compensation Insurance Company - Work Safe, Texas

Workplace Safety:
There’s a
Wearable for That

A tower rising 50 stories. A tape measure attached to a construction worker’s waist. An unsuspecting man stepping from a vehicle at the foot of the building.

In case you don’t see where this story is going, here’s what happened.

The tape measure somehow got separated from the worker. It then fell approximately 400 feet, struck the unsuspecting man in the head and killed him.

The New York Times reported that the victim was delivering supplies to the job site. Perhaps he rationalized that he would only be there a few minutes, so he didn’t need his hard hat. Murphy’s Law said otherwise.

It turns out that wearable technology could have saved this man’s life.

You might not know wearables by name, but you surely recognize them. They’re those things people constantly glance at on their wrists or waistbands, receiving real-time data on their heart rate and myriad other health indicators.

Early wearable iterations were little more than glorified pedometers. But the technology has evolved, and current models are fashionable and functional.

Want to know how well you slept? There’s a wearable for that.

Curious who and what are stressing you out today? Wearables have you covered.

The wellness industry was among the first to recognize the power of wearable technology. Not to be left behind, pharmaceutical companies, charitable organizations and insurance carriers are jumping on board.

And what about workplace safety? Well, there are wearables for that, too.

Here’s a look at some of the ways wearable technology is removing human decision making from the workplace safety equation.

Giving workers a heads up about hazards

If our unsuspecting worker in the story above had been using a smart hard hat, his employer would have gotten a notification that he wasn’t wearing his personal protective equipment. Smart hard hats are also loaded with sensors that monitor the wearer’s heart rate, perspiration, breathing rate and brain activity. If vital signs reach dangerous levels, the system notifies the worker. If workers are in danger, they can command their hard hat to call for help. The technology will in turn help emergency personnel locate the victim.

Monitoring fatigue

More than one-third of adult drivers, or 103 million people, have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Manufacturers are waking up to the power of wearables in keeping drivers alert. Safety glasses can now monitor fatigue by tracking how many times the driver blinks. Similarly, a mining company recently unveiled a cap that continuously monitors workers’ brain waves, assesses their ability to resist sleep, and alerts them when they are in danger.

Making work zones safer

Nearly 600 people died in work zone crashes during 2013. Virginia Tech researchers want to cut that statistic by outfitting workers with a vest that includes a tiny sensor. If a collision is about to happen between a vehicle and a worker, the vest warns the worker in a matter of seconds. Likewise, the motorist receives a dashboard notification.

Protecting health care workers

Home health care workers are four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than workers in other industries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, workplace violence is one of five health care industry hazards OSHA recently ordered its inspectors to target. Wearable technology is making it safer for home health care workers to do their jobs. With one touch of a button, the worker can alert authorized personnel if they are in danger. Other features alert employers if a worker leaves a designated safe zone, which is critical during abductions.

Click here for a short podcast on safety glasses that monitor driver fatigue.