Employers Experimenting With the Use of Wearables and Drones: Is This a True Effort to Improve Workplace Safety or Is It Designed to Reduce Costs by Monitoring Aging Workers in Particular?
Business Insurance recently published an article by Gavin Souter on the use of monitoring technology designed to transform workplace safety. Ostensibly, the technology is designed to enhance the ability of employers to closely monitor the actions of employees and to intervene to correct workplace behavior in order to improve safety practices.
This year, a small number of Amerisure Mutual Insurance Co. policyholders started using sensors, drones and wearables to monitor employees on worksites, said Gregory Crabb, president and CEO of Amerisure. For example, if an employee gets too close to a hazardous area, such as an excavation site or heavy machinery, the wearable will vibrate on their wrist, so hopefully it will prevent the accident from happening. Amerisure gathers the data so that employers can identify employees who frequently receive safety warning vibrations and can intervene with the employees and their supervisors.
He adds that they are also “working on body movement and sensors on the body that might help prevent back injuries and things of that nature.” These efforts are clearly designed to help reduce workers' comp costs.
At the annual meeting of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, concern was expressed about the aging workforce creating pressures that could increase costs. There was a very specific focus on the baby boomer generation who are working longer than earlier generations and are more likely to be injured. This will almost certainly result in increased health care costs. As workers age and stay on longer, employers and insurers expect to see the number and severity of claims rise. Older workers, unlike their younger counterparts, may take more time to recover from severe injuries. More experienced workers usually are paid more than inexperienced workers which also leads to increases in indemnity exposure.
If wearables and drones truly result in increased safety for workers, I am all for it! But if technology is being used to enable employers to save costs by targeting and potentially eliminating older workers from the workforce, I am very concerned.