Wearable technology can be an effective way to train employees and reduce workplace accidents, but they can also create privacy concerns. In this session at the RIMS 2019 Conference and Exhibition, panelists discussed the different types of wearables and how utilization of data intersects with labor, employment and human resources regulations.
- Brad Waldron, Vice President, Risk Management, Caesars Entertainment, Inc.
- Ross Goren, Attorney, Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby, LLC
- David Wald, CEO and Co-Founder, Aclaimant
Wearable technology includes any device that can be worn as an accessory/clothing or implanted in an employee’s body that transmits data. The data collected typically falls into one of five categories:
Location – GPS, bluetooth, QR codes
Environment – sound, heat, humidity, elevation
Activity – movement, speed, directional changes
Biometric – heart rate, body temp, (future: disease/illness, blood/vitals, etc.)
Other – sound, visual
Wearables can provide real time incident alerts, identify workers in problem areas, find lost worker, send wellness reminders and track alertness/awareness. Some of the potential benefits for employers include:
- Understanding employee practices
- Corrective possibilities for actions
- Protecting employees from known hazards
- More detailed incident investigations
- Reinforces a “safety-minded” workforce
- Employee-related considerations around wearable technology
While there are obviously many potential benefits to wearables, like assessing worker productivity, distraction and travel behavior, there are also a lot of potential concerns. Using wearables creates risk related to privacy rights, labor agreements and product liability.
Mitigating Potential Risks
Privacy – Most types of wearables allow you to restrict what data is collected by the device. It is important to know exactly what type of information you need and try to collect the least amount of data possible to get it. Remember – less is more!
Use of data – Consulting with representatives from Risk Management, Legal and Human Resources is key. Knowing what type of data you want to avoid can be as important as knowing what you do want to collect. If an employer is collecting data about employees and detects some sort of disability, responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) shifts from the employee to the employer. It is also important to recognize that it is more than just the employee and management seeing personal health data. Wearables use a third-party to collect and analyze data and, generally, the company’s IT department has access to the data as well.
Labor Agreements – Consulting applicable labor agreements before implementing wearable assessment technology is vital. There could be terms in the agreement that address privacy, health data, communication and work accommodations. The best way to mitigate this risk is to have conversations with stakeholders prior to implementation.
Before implementing wearables in an organization, be sure to analyze potential exposures and consult with all relevant parties. Involving everyone at the outset is the best way to minimize risk in a new program that utilizes this technology.