New technology can help address OSHA rule
Wearable sensors can help control the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
posted December 09, 2020
By Scott Clark, safety innovation and technology adviser
Oregon OSHA recently rolled out a temporary rule to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the workplace. We know you're looking for ways to stay in compliance while maintaining efficient operations. One of the more complex requirements of the standard is the employee exposure notification process. With employees moving throughout a workplace, gathering this information could be a challenge.
The good news is there are several safety technologies that not only make gathering this information easy, but may provide additional benefits, both in safety and operations. Here's a look at some of the technology that may work for your business.
Advancements in sensor technology have paved the way for a variety of workplace safety applications. Discreet wearable sensors can track temperature, noise levels, and potentially hazardous physical movements (like a slip/trip/fall or an at-risk lifting movement). In the case of COVID-19, wearables can monitor proximity of employees to one another. This automates the ability to know when employees are closer than 6 feet for a certain time period, enabling employers to know when thresholds are met or exceeded. These apps also make it easy to download a list of potentially exposed employees for notification and contact tracing.
Audible and Haptic Alerts
Many of the sensors on the market feature the ability to alert employees of close encounters. For example, if two or more employees are interacting inside of 6 feet for more than two minutes, they would receive an audible and/or haptic (vibration) alert reminding them to keep a safe distance. These alerts are often customizable, in order to avoid alert fatigue.
In addition to infection notification, several technologies offer the ability to create heat maps to show where employees are gathering too close for too long and, specifically, what time of day the occurrences are. This information can help employers identify potential problem areas and adjust workspace layouts and employee schedules as needed.
Many of these technologies offer additional safety and operational benefits. For example, wearable sensors can be used to monitor potentially hazardous ergonomic movements and help to inform workplace improvements or need for training. In other cases, sensors can detect the existence of electricity during maintenance procedures and assist with lock out/tag out.
Privacy is most certainly a major consideration with the use of these technologies. Most technology providers have specific protocols to ensure the privacy of employees. If you chose to implement any technology, have a specific conversation with the vendor on how employee privacy will be maintained. If you are interested in knowing more about how safety technology can assist your operation, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.