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Should you introduce wearables to your construction crews?

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2018 | Construction Law

One of the newest industry trends is wearable technology that can monitor construction workers’ health and safety on the job. But before you decide to invest in wearable tech products, you must first fully understand the pros and cons for both you and your workers.

Research done by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan (UM) shows that wearable sensors can improve construction worker safety and reduce business costs by transmitting worker health data.

An associate professor involved in the UM study claims that sensing technology on wristband devices can lower the insurance premiums for construction companies and allow workers to monitor their own safety status regarding accident prevention on the job.

Potential information transmitted by wearables could include:

  • Risk perception levels
  • Stress identification
  • Monitoring physical demands
  • Heart rate levels
  • Temperature of workers’ skin
  • Electrical activity on skin

While the verdict on returns on investment (ROI) of wearables is still out, their ability to transmit health data on a company’s workers has some concerning implications regarding the way the data may be used. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) law protects individuals’ privacy about the dissemination of their health information and status.

If a contractor plans to institute a wearables policy for the construction crews, it’s vital that the policy and the information transmitted by the devices is compliant with HIPAA laws.

As relatively new technologies, wearables aren’t specifically addressed by present HIPAA regulations. However, they fall under the umbrella of the Security and Privacy Rules. Therefore, any wearable device recording data already protected under HIPAA must be certified as HIPAA-compliant. A company’s failure to do this and to update their policies and procedures accordingly opens itself up to legal challenges regarding the use of wearables on the job.