From desk jobs to construction sites, safety technology is moving in leaps and bounds. Office workers and laborers alike are now using wearable technology that helps them avoid equipment injuries and ergonomic hazards. Safety devices and apps pinpoint common problems and alerts employees that they’ve been doing the same thing for too long, are in danger of overexposure to an environmental condition, and remind them that they should get up and move at regular intervals. Safety technology seeks to prevent people from engaging in activities that are detrimental to their bodies and health while enabling them to work comfortably.
Here’s a look at the latest in safety gear and apps that keep workers safe.
Wearable Technologies for Office and Field
Smartphones and fitness trackers are almost ubiquitous in either the work environment and are providing users with valuable health feedback. Activity and break apps installed on a smartphone serve to remind the user that it’s time to get up and move around. Fitness trackers show heart rate and can also send out alerts to make the employee move around for short periods of time. Wearable GPS devices help employers track an employee’s locations in an emergency situation. There’s even a wristband that employees wear to measure fatigue levels. The information is sent back to the employer who can predict who is most likely to be fatigued when working and make an appropriate response.
Reducing Ergonomic Hazards
You’d be excused for thinking that working in an office is the safest environment for the body because of its sedentary nature. However, research has shown that sitting in a chair for up to 8 hours a day is detrimental to your health. Office furniture design has responded to this fact by introducing sit-stand desks in recent years. But a sit-stand desk is only the first step to reducing ergonomic hazards. Keyboards should be placed below waist height to reduce hand and wrist fatigue, mechanical or buckling spring keyboards minimize repetitive strain injury (RSI) in the hands, and adjustable monitor arm mounts place the monitor at a height and angle to help keep the head level. The office workspace should be adjustable and ergonomic to prevent strain and keep employees healthy.
Body cameras are frequently associated with law enforcement, but they’re used in a variety of work settings. Cameras can come in the form of a box that mounts on a vest or built into the side of safety glasses. They can be used for real-time monitoring or record and save for later review to determine what went wrong or what needs changing at a station that performs a repetitive task. The real-time use allows an employer to get a first-hand look at how employees operate at their task and find ways to improve safety for that position.
Smart Protective Personal Equipment (PPE)
The basic function of protective personal equipment, or PPE, is to protect the wearer from injury to the body while on the job. For office workers, PPE typically comes in the form of wrist braces to support the wrists during long periods of typing. Technology has been applied to the simple wrist brace to help wearers know when they’re making incorrect or injurious motions with their wrist. The brace provides instantaneous feedback to the user in the form of audio, visual, and tactile alerts that tell you to put your wrist back into proper alignment. The smart brace is designed to prevent overuse of the wrist and stop pain before it starts.
Construction workers wear PPE in the form of helmets and safety vests. Some positions call for more protective gear, but the helmet and vest are the primary pieces of PPE worn on the job site. The construction helmet has been upgraded to monitor body temperature, heart rate, O2 saturation, and even brain activity of the wearer. The information is tracked in real-time and relayed back to a central hub for monitoring. In the event a worker starts to show signs of distress, an alert goes out and the worker is taken off duty until their vital signs stabilize. Smart helmets also provide head protection from falling or flung debris on top of the health monitoring function.
The smartphone camera combined with a safety or work communication app is one of the most effective safety tools available. An employee can take a picture of what they perceive as an unsafe condition, send it to a safety manager in seconds, and get a response from the safety manager on what steps to take next. Safety apps aren’t limited to the construction site, however. They cover a broad range of safety activities for the office as well. Here’s a look at some safety apps and programs for a variety of work situations:
- 100 Office Workouts PDF: This downloadable PDF works well for office and construction workers. Taking a break from work to do some quick calisthenics gets the body out of a fixed position or repetitive motion and moving in a different direction.
- Stand Up!: StandUp! is a straightforward timer app for iOS. You set alarms to remind you to stand up at a certain time and for a set amount of time. That’s it, nothing more, but it’s effective for those who get lost in their work and don’t think to stand up.
- Eye Care Plus: This Android app trains your eyes through daily eye exercises and helps you get relief from eyestrain caused by looking at a monitor for too long. Exercise your eyes for five minutes a day and track your progress with the built-in eye tests.
- Safety Meeting App: Primarily designed for safety managers, the Safety Meeting app is a multipurpose app that covers areas such as checklists, OSHA reports, has over 1100 safety topics, and includes most types of trades. Available for iOS and Android
Technology and safety work well together when it comes to keeping people safe. Apps help monitor and record a multitude of safety issues while improvements in office furnishings and PPE give employers and employees more control over their working conditions. Some may say that technology gets more intrusive with each passing day, but that intrusion can prevent pain and even save lives.