5 Things to Know About Tracking Data from Connected Workers

Construction Worker with Smartwatch
October 15, 2020

Last week we announced that Honeywell and Wolters Kluwer were going to work together to integrate Honeywell’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connected devices and safety software with the Enablon platform.

Also, two days ago we published a blog post where we highlighted some of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on EHS, including a greater use of wearables to track key indicators in real-time.

There is a trend where we may experience a rise in the use of wearables to track such things as body temperature, pulse, location (through GPS), proximity detection, sudden movements (e.g. fall), and other data points in real-time, in order to better protect the safety and health of workers.

If your organization is considering going down this path, there are five things you should be aware of in order to have a successful deployment of wearables.

1) Explain the Benefits for the Worker, Not the Company

Humans are naturally resistant to change. It’s hard-wired in our DNA through thousands of years of evolution. We prefer familiarity and consistency.

As you deploy wearable technology, be aware that it could make some employees uneasy. Therefore, be prepared to explain the reasons why you’re doing it.

To have a successful and persuasive message, be sure to put the focus on the worker, not the company. Don’t explain how the organization will benefit from wearable technology. Rather, explain how employees will personally benefit from it.

Show how the real-time tracking of data on the condition and location of connected workers will contribute to keep them safe and healthy, reduce risks of illness and injury, and therefore make sure that they return home each day to their family.

Finally, remember that repetition is the best education. Communicate the same message over and over again, and not by simply re-sending the same e-mail multiple times.

2) Understand Data Privacy Regulations

Health data on connected workers, such as pulse, temperature, etc., can be considered as personal data. As such, it may be subject to regulations on data privacy and confidentiality.

Before deploying wearable technology, make sure that you’re aware of all applicable regulatory obligations.

Make a list of all jurisdictions where your workers and corporate offices are based. For example, if your company is based in the U.S., and you have a work project in the EU, you must be aware of data privacy/confidentiality regulations in the U.S., the state where you’re located, the EU, and extra provisions from EU member states.

Don’t assume that the regulations of another country don’t apply because your corporate headquarters and data servers are not based in that country.

Also, make a list of all the data points that you will track. That way you can determine if they fall under the scope of the regulations.

3) Prepare to Address Psychosocial Stress

A report by the International Labour Organization, Safety and Health at the Heart of the Future of Work, looks at the potential safety and health risks in the future.

According to the report, while technology can indeed improve workplace safety and health, it can also increase psychosocial risks. This is especially the case with wearables.

Workers may feel like they’re being monitored, which may create stress as a result of a perceived loss of autonomy or privacy. They may think that they’re being observed with the intention of being blamed, or that their employer is trying to protect the company from liability.

As you deploy wearables, be sure to evaluate the potential impact on work-related stress and psychological health.

4) Determine the Value of the Data

Last year I wrote a blog post about things to consider in the age of machine data.

The post says that, in the past, we faced a situation where there was not enough data. But today it sometimes feels like there is too much data and we don’t know what to do with it.

The lesson is that we must not collect data just for the sake of collecting data.

The same applies to wearables and the data that they collect. Before investing significant time and money, determine the value of the information and insight that you will get from the data. What is the purpose behind the collection of the data? What happens when we learn something from the data?

For example, what happens if a wearable device detects that an employee is experiencing an unusually high heart rate? Will they receive an alert or a call on their mobile device? Will their supervisor be notified? Will they automatically be asked to take a 15-minute break?

5) Listen to People, Not Just Data

In 2018, I wrote a blog post about the importance of talking to workers, in addition to “listening” to data. While not directly related to the topic of wearables, it nevertheless has some relevance.

The post was saying that there may be a danger of relying too much on data. In the case of wearables, access to key health indicators on connected workers may create an impression that you know everything that needs to be known, and therefore a proper analysis of the data is all that’s needed.

This might make some people less inclined to talk directly to employees to inquire about working conditions, their needs, challenges, anxieties and expectations. This would be a mistake. Data can reveal a lot, but there’s still a lot that can be learned by having one-on-one conversations with workers.

Trust the data that you get from wearables, but don’t forget the human aspect.

By taking into account the five items highlighted above, you can increase the odds of having a successful deployment of wearables that collect real-time data from connected workers.

EHS & Risk Management in the Age of Data Analytics

This report provides an overview of the main data analytics technologies, and explains how EHS and Risk professionals can benefit from data analytics to generate real-time insights and improve business outcomes.



Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader - Wolters Kluwer | Enablon