Wearable technology was once limited to athletes and medical practices, but in recent years, it has become almost ubiquitous for both personal and professional use.  Sales of wearable devices generated $3.5 billion in 2014, and that amount is expected to quadruple by 2019.  Wearable technology has massive potential for the construction industry, but before you implement it, carefully consider the potential risks.

What is wearable technology?

Wearable devices for use on construction projects are pieces of technology that are worn on the body or in clothing such as vests, hats, safety glasses, and gloves.  They often contain sensors that can measure biological information such as heart rate, breathing, steps taken, body temperature, posture, and muscle strain.  Wearable devices can also be used to collect location and environmental information.

The benefits

Wearable technology can be highly beneficial to both firms and their employees.  Wearables can allow workers to give and receive project updates with immediacy and precision, completely hands-free.  They can indicate the presence of carbon monoxide and other dangerous environmental factors.  Smart glasses can allow workers to view building plans from the exact angle at which they are standing.  Location-tracking technology can alert a worker if they have entered an unsafe area of the job site, or help a contractor locate an employee trapped by falling rubble or equipment.  By monitoring fatigue, repetitive motion, and muscle strain, wearables can help prevent injuries which can be costly for both workers and businesses.  Wearables also allow employers to remotely monitor job site activity and productivity.

The challenges

There are a few risks in using wearable technology.  Wearable devices may be distracting for some employees.  They may also be uncomfortable with technology and therefore hesitant about using wearables.  These factors can be easily handled with adequate training and thorough instruction about how the device works and what it should and shouldn’t be used for.  Employees may also view wearable devices as an attempt to police their activities on the job site.  Employers should be as transparent as possible about why the technology is being implemented and how it will benefit employees.  Because wearables collect health and wellness data, employers should use great caution with this information.  Health records are more valuable on the black market than bank and credit card information because of greater ease of fraud and identity theft.  Data security is essential, and employers using wearable technology may wish to consider purchasing cyber insurance to protect themselves against liability in case of a data breach.  For more information about cyber insurance, see our prior post: http://columnandbeam.com/2017/05/31/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-cyber-insurance/.

If you have any questions about risk management regarding wearable technology, call us at (864) 327-5000.  We would be glad to assist you!