Worker Safety and Wearable Movement Devices

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Raise your hand if you have a Fitbit, iWatch, Garmon or any other brand of movement/fitness tracker.  Now raise your hand if you mindfully use it to track things like active minutes, heart rate, flights of stairs climbed, or sleep patterns.  Wearable movement trackers are amazing devices that help us stay active and motivate us by offering competitive “games” among wearers.  Knowing how many calories burned and steps taken a day can help us stay moving, and the little vibration we receive on our wrists when we reach a goal can be an incentive to keep up the good work and improve each day.

In an article entitled “Can Wearables Boost Safety?” Haytham Elhawary, the CEO of Kinetic, talks about his realization that the same sensors in fitness monitors can be incorporated into the manufacturing world to keep workers safe.  Strains and sprains are a big problem in manufacturing environments.  Reaching for items, packing boxes, and picking up large objects all add up to a very high chance for a strained or sprained muscle/back.  Even with all of the ergonomics training that facilities provide, and though many facilities have tried to take any movement that may cause strain out of the equation, injuries still happen.  Haytham decided that something as simple as a movement tracker could provide a preventive solution to these strains and sprains.

He and his team developed a wearable movement tracker called the Kinetics Relex.  This small device is similar in appearance to a pager and monitors workers posture.  If any excessive bending, twisting, or reaching is happening while the employee is working, it sends out a light vibration and records it as a hit on an accompanying app for the employee.  This vibration is meant as a physical reminder for the employee to reposition their body and also serves as a mental reminder to the employee to try not make the mistake again.   His reasoning is simple: “the more times you do something, the more feedback you get; the more feedback you get, the more goals you will achieve; the more goals you achieve, the more likely you will be to change your behavior.”  Just as a fitness tracker offers competitions between the wearer and other users, the Kinetics Reflex takes the data, applies it to personal goals, and stacks it up against other employee’s statistics.

According to the article the device has already been wildly successful when tested in a 4 week pilot program.  Elhawary stated that workers saw an 84% improvement in workplace ergonomics and posture!  He said that one worker specifically went from “320 unsafe postures a day to 12! A 96% percent reduction in strain and sprain risk!”

What does this mean for the future of safety in manufacturing facilities? Elhawary believes that sensors, such as the Kinetics Reflex, will have a profound impact on safety equipment going forward.  It also means that safety managers will need to “upgrade the way they interpret data, look at computers and identify risks.”  It’s exciting to think of the possibilities something as simple as a movement tracker can have in manufacturing environments!

Hessman, Travis. “Can Wearables Boost Safety?” January, 08, 2018. January, 25 2018.

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