Organisations are beginning to explore the use of wearable technologies to prevent injury for workers who perform high-risk tasks. Wearables are advanced sensor and computing technologies that a person can wear to generate, store, and transmit data. They monitor productivity, identify safety hazards or risks to prevent injury, provide augmented instruction to improve task management and promote health and wellness. Cority notes the current uptake of wearables is around 5% in organisations, with a further 5% looking to introduce them in the next 2-5 years.
Although wearable devices can offer support and assistance, employees may be reluctant to accept or use them. For this article, we review research conducted in the US that investigated the factors that encourage employee acceptance of wearable technologies. We have a particular interest in how acceptance of wearables can prevent injury.
What Are Wearable Technologies?
Wearable technologies can incorporate a wide variety of sensors for measuring information. They capture mechanical information that includes position, displacement, acceleration and force. Noise wearables collect acoustic information on volume, pitch, and frequency. Medical wearable devices collect biological data on heart rate, temperature, neural activity, and respiration rate. Glasses collect optical information to include data on refraction, lightwave frequency, brightness, and luminance. Some wearable devices collect environmental data on temperature and humidity.
Wearables are ‘aware’ in that they can recognise, adapt and react to their owner, their location and the activity they perform. These devices expect that people can adequately multi-task to utilise wearables safely and effectively. When they are not good at that, wearable technologies lose some of their usefulness. Ease of use has a direct impact on the usage of wearable technologies.
Many people are concerned about the capacity of wearable technologies to instantaneously broadcast information about themselves and receive information about other people. This easy access to information raises a raft of privacy, ethical and social issues.
Using Wearable Technologies to Increase Productivity and Prevent Injury
Wearable technologies that measure productivity might be of interest to managers but are less favourable to employees. Which comes as no surprise because employees may be concerned about exploitation. The research found that employees are more willing to use wearable devices that focus on safety improvements to prevent injury. Employees in high-risk jobs such as construction are significantly more willing than employees in office jobs, to try wearables.
Interestingly, employees in this study look for cash incentives from their workplaces to try wearable technologies, even when they prevent injury. Organisations often provide an incentive for using wearable devices including cash, gift cards and time off work. However, incentives affect the willingness to use the wearable.
See our article, Can Sensors Identify Hazard Zones to Reduce Risk?
If You Have Worn a Wearable Before, Does That Help to Encourage Regular Use?
Many people regularly engage with wearable technologies for personal use, including fitness trackers and smartwatches. In the workplace, this can extend to noise sensors, air-quality sensors and smart glasses that monitor fatigue. Several factors influence the level of adoption of wearables in the workplace.
- Organisational safety climate is essential when considering wearable technologies adoption. Having a positive safety climate is highly influential in supporting the introduction of wearable devices.
- Employees who are techno-curious and experienced with wearables, who have worn a device in the past, are more likely use the wearable devices at work.
- Job security, union membership, trust in the technology, and demographic characteristics also have
You should involve and inform employees in the process of selecting and implementing wearable technologies. There must be clear objectives associated with the introduction of these devices. Employers need to provide an adequate level of information on what they intend to use the data for and who has access.
You should ensure the transparency of the results to support employees’ beliefs that the wearable will meet its objective. It is also vital that when analysing the data to determine workplace safety performance and predict future events, that you only use the data that is recorded at work.
Engendering trust by clearly informing employees about why, how, and by whom the data will be used and protected, will help to garner support.
See our article, Can Smart Watches Stop Workplace Injury?
How to Get the Most Out of Your Wearables With Supportive Training
Wearable technologies can assist in the reduction of workplace injury because of their predictive data. However, technology cannot ‘think’ for the employee and training on the safest way to work is essential for any business tackling workplace safety improvements in their efforts to prevent injury.
Tap Into Safety offers interactive and engaging hazard awareness training. We use real workplace photographic, panoramic examples that workers relate to because they show their worksites governed by the required regulations for their industry.
Well-designed, visually pleasing, interactive, online solutions that include gamification, not only engage the user but encourage problem-solving and knowledge retention. Our software has been designed to support workers with low literacy or minimal English language capabilities. On the Tap Into Safety Platform, there are a substantial number of pre-built safety training modules, across a range of industries. If you’d like to know more, please contact us.
Adoption of wearable technologies is slow in organisations with uptake currently only sitting at around 5%. Wearables monitor productivity, identify safety hazards or risks to prevent injury, provide augmented instructions to improve task management and promote health and wellness. Although wearable devices can offer support and assistance, employees may be reluctant to accept or use them.
For organisations looking to introduce wearable technologies, there are several influences they should consider. Having a positive safety climate is highly influential. Workplaces that are unionised and have a low risk of employee termination help. Employees who are techno-curious and experienced with wearable devices assist with adoption. Engendering trust by clearly informing employees about why, how, and by whom the data will be used and protected, will help to garner support. Involving employees in selecting and implementing wearable technologies together with clear objectives associated with the introduction of these devices makes the process of data collection transparent. However, easy access to the information that wearable devices collect raises a raft of privacy, ethical and social issues that we must consider before introducing the technology.