Can wearable tech tell us the things we don't often get round to asking?
The industry owes a duty of care to ensure site teams are monitored, supported and reviewed - and technology in the form of wearable tech has an important role to play
Ask yourself the following!
We've all heard the comments such as "he hasn't turned up" (meaning he's there in body but not in mind), "It will do"! (too tired to complete the task) and "Change of plan" (equipment or resources not available). Fatigue can have significant effects on employees who maintain the real-time operation of UK infrastructure. Statistics suggest the industry can improve health and safety procedures and systems to ensure we stop causing harm to our teams.
But how many of us routinely ask our teams if they are fit to complete their activities? Do we know enough about our employees to understand changes that could affect their wellbeing prior to starting their shift? At the start of each day, do you consider the drive time to work and the potential drowsiness caused by driving a warm vehicle after being on a cold site all day? Do we monitor the wellbeing of employees during the day - their heartrate, posture, trips and falls on site? Do we challenge our teams to be honest when it comes to understanding that both mental and physical health are important to us all?
The industry owes a duty of care to ensure our site teams are monitored, supported and reviewed more closely so when conditions deteriorate appropriate actions can be taken. Such monitoring enables managers to remove people from stressful or risky situations and can mean a lapse of concentration is dealt with immediately.
The start of the process is to make sure teams and employees, particularly those working alone, are both physically and mentally prepared. Technology has an important role to play in answering these questions - providing data to give business insight into both team or individual situations.
For instance, during July and August, Amey funded proof of concept trials on the use of wearable technology, developed by Fujitsu, to monitor the health of its workforce both on site and while driving to and from work.
Lone workers on the North-eastern Regional Technology Maintenance Account for Highways England were asked to take part in the short trial. By wearing a Fujitsu Vital Sensing Band, worn on the wrist effectively as a smart watch, a vital connection was enabled between employee and manager. The device provided managers with live data and information including alerts should there be an increased level of risk, enabling them to take immediate action.
The trial investigated early detection of the following:
* Avoiding Heat Stroke: Heat stress is evaluated based on more than temperature and humidity, the environmental index and physical state of each wearer of the device are also taken into account and an alert is displayed if predetermined levels are reached.
* Immediate indication of a trip or fall: The movement of tumbling or falling can be determined by a combination of changes in atmospheric pressure and acceleration.
* Prevent falling asleep at the wheel: The Fujitsu drowsiness detector monitors the driver's biorhythms. This gauges levels of fatigue and pre-alerts the driver via a smartphone interface and alert vibrations when they are becoming drowsy.
Monitoring the well-being of employees continuously means managers are immediately aware if an employee becomes drowsy or has had a trip or fall while on site or any other remote location. If there is no response when contacting the employee, the manager or supervisor can take immediate action.
We must all ensure our teams are safe at the start and end of shift and they go home fit and healthy after completing a day's work.
Ask yourself - have you asked your team if they are fit for work?
Michael Kehoe is Amey's Framework Manager - Infrastructure, Highways, Airports & Technology.
* Safety, Health and Wellbeing for Roadworkers is one of main session themes in the Safer Highways UK Conference running within this year's Highways UK. The event on 8 November is free and open to all Highways UK visitors.
* Fujitsu will be demonstrating wearable health monitoring technology from its stand at Highways UK on 8/9 November.