Workers’ compensation is a system designed to help workers cope with on-the-job injury by providing medical care and some wage replacement benefits for time away from work. In certain cases, additional benefits are also available. But while workers’ compensation is an important protection, a more ideal solution would be to prevent workplace accidents from occurring in the first place.
While it is likely impossible to prevent all workplace accidents, it is possible to greatly reduce the rate of on-the-job injuries simply by instituting smart policies, procedures and safety equipment. Some companies are even taking workplace safety to the next level by developing devices to track how workers move their bodies and give feedback as to how such actions could lead to injury.
Tracking movements and measuring injury risks
One company getting a lot of attention in this area is a startup called Kinetic. It recently raised more than $11 million to develop a device that workers will clip to their belts. It essentially looks like an oversized pager, and it reportedly uses sensors and sophisticated algorithms to detect how workers are using their bodies (bending, reaching twisting, etc.) and then transmits that data via Bluetooth to other platforms (like a workplace computer). Workers and employers can then see reports detailing the movements and highlighting those most likely to lead to injury, and can adjust their techniques accordingly.
Using technology properly and ethically
One significant downside to wearable technology is that it is yet one more way for employers to conduct constant surveillance on their employees. Equipment used to measure movement could also be used to measure productivity. Moreover, some employers might try to use data to claim that a worker was at fault for their own injuries or that injuries were not as serious as the worker claimed. These would be unethical uses of technology designed to help prevent injuries, but workers may need to prepare themselves for data-driven pushback when they file a workers’ compensation claim.
Low-tech solutions are already available
While the technology described above is certainly new and novel, the simple truth is that employers already have low-tech and low-cost solutions available to them to prevent workplace injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other agencies provide detailed safety rules and regulations for each industry, including lists of required safety equipment. It is up to employers to carefully follow all these rules and regulations and ensure that their employees have the resources to do the same.