July 15, 2020

Wearable Tech Reduces Risks of Workplace Injuries

Meet Rosa. She is an H-2A worker from Mexico who was harvesting fresh produce for a Western Growers member company during the past winter vegetable season. Despite her age, she is over 55 years old, Rosa was relatively new to farm work, with less than five years of experience. Intuitively, Rosa fell into a higher risk of injury category. But did the data agree?

From a smart phone worn around her belt, the Connected Worker Program app monitored and tracked Rosa’s body mechanics, noting the frequency and duration of her deep bends and the rotational energy of her twists. Ultimately, the analysis demonstrated that Rosa was exerting significantly more strain on her body compared to her peers.

Without the Connected Worker Program designed by Western Growers Insurance Services (WGIS), Rosa may very well have become another statistic. Instead, she was able to proactively adjust her mechanics and prevent any injuries before they occurred.

Utilizing the latest advancements in wearable technology, the Connected Worker Program measures the types of motions that drive major workers’ compensation injuries—those related to the neck, spine and hips—and detects unsafe movements, including falls and impacts. The data is then shared with both the supervisor and employee, and used to identify risk trends, improve safety measures, and coach workers on injury prevention techniques.

“In developing the data-driven Connected Worker Program, we were equally focused on worker safety and workplace productivity,” stated WGIS President Jeff Gullickson. “With over several hundred thousand hours of worker data logged, this solution has been proven to lower the risk of injury from field to facility, simultaneously increasing the earnings potential of employees and lowering workers’ compensation costs and insurance premiums for employers.”

Based on her risk score, the Connected Worker Program utilized an integrated messaging platform to present Rosa and her supervisor with real-time, app-based safety alerts. These risk reducer messages notified Rosa of her specific high-risk movements and provided her with biomechanical changes she could implement to reduce her risk of injury.

After six weeks of participating in the Connected Worker Program, Rosa reduced her risk score by 43%. But the success story was not limited to Rosa. Her team reduced their overall risk score by 12%, as well.

“By engaging all levels of employees in the company safety culture, the Connected Worker Program allows for positive changes to be made on the spot,” noted Gullickson. “In applying trends in data, businesses can identify and evaluate necessary changes to equipment or processes, ultimately promoting a safer work environment, improving operational efficiencies and cutting costs.”

In addition to tracking body mechanics, the Connected Worker Program also provides COVID-19 functionality for agricultural operations. With its data collection and GPS capabilities, employers can log temperature readings, record answers to health screening questionnaires and monitor contact tracing, all while maintaining compliance with government regulations and in accordance with the latest guidelines on minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

Wearable technology is becoming more commonplace, and has been embraced by consumers who have popularized devices like smart watches, activity trackers and virtual reality. Professional sports franchises have universally incorporated wearable devices into player training programs, and the technology is being widely adopted in other industries, including healthcare, advanced textiles (yes, smart fabric is a thing), and even the military. It is time to add agriculture to that list.

To learn more about the benefits the Connected Worker Program could have for your business, contact Ken Cooper at [email protected].