Address impairment concerns with new technology
Check new technology solutions for this common workplace hazard.
posted June 15, 2021
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The National Safety Council recently released results from an employer survey that aimed to investigate the awareness and impact of impairment in the workplace. Here's what they found:
- More than half of respondents — 52% — said impairment is decreasing the safety of their workforce
- A majority of respondents — 77% — view impairment as an important consideration when determining an employee's fitness for duty
- However, an alarming 13% claimed that impairment was not an important consideration when determining fitness for duty
That discrepancy points to the need to find better ways for employers to manage impairment in the workplace. We have tips for how businesses can address impairment in the workplace, but recent advancements in technology could also help.
Places like Whoop, FitBit, and Apple have offered robust features aimed at helping individuals improve their health and wellness based on biometric data for a while now. That tech now extends into the workplace.
Fatigue Science offers a 'Predictive Fatigue Management Platform' powered by a specialized smart watch. Data collected by the devices provide a real-time, historical, and forecasted view of fatigue across an entire operation. That information can then be used for a variety of solutions, from tailoring shifts to better account for sleep patterns to sending real-time alerts when an employee could be at risk from fatigue.
The big plus to a wearable-based alert system is the seamless nature of data collection. But for some workplaces, this may be a tough sell. Not everyone is comfortable with employers accessing personal biometric data, even if specific underlying data is protected from employer view.
Another new technology is Alert-Meter. This system leverages an interactive app to assess impairment. A baseline is created via the app to establish a profile unique to each employee. With a baseline constant established, the AlertMeter test is part of the clock-in procedure at the start of each shift. The technology measures deviation from the individual's baseline to gauge real-time alertness. The employee and supervisor are notified with the results — either as 'good to go' or a possible performance concern.
The advantage of a system like the AlertMeter is that it isn't exclusively focused on fatigue, but rather impairment in general. Additionally, since biometric data isn't collected, it may prove more readily accepted by employees. Employers looking to adopt this technology should plan for the time required at the start of the shift for employees to take the daily test (about 60 seconds).
Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT)
The PVT was invented by Dr. David F. Dinges to measure lapses of attention, instability of alertness, and other performance-degrading factors. It's been used by the likes of NASA and is considered by many to be the gold-standard in measurement of behavioral alertness and attention. It is a visual test (app or PC-based) and measures the speed at which a person reacts to visual stimuli. Pulsar Informatics technology is based on the PVT and they offer options specific to the driving and aviation industry as well as general workplace.
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