A Certain Future

Today’s energy and mining companies face an almost certain future: Wearable technology very soon will become an integral part of day-to-day operations. As I’m writing this article, energy and mining companies all around the world use legacy systems which often fail to prevent accidents or create a safe workplace environment.

Less than a decade ago if you said “insurance companies are going to place a device in your vehicle which will provide them actionable data on which to base your future insurance rates ” you’d tell me that technology is invasive and will never happen. Now in Europe that standard is commonplace. In America, companies like Progressive are implementing it. 

The same holds true today with wearable technology. Insurance providers are getting smarter. They realize the power of actionable harnessed from wearable technology. Not only are insurance providers getting smarter, but they compete in a market place with new competitors who have already begun to incorporate wearables into their programs. Shareholders are going to demand results and insurance companies can no longer afford to operate on the honor system of today.

Say you have a truck driver who has worked five consecutive 14-hour days and he falls asleep at the wheel [resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement] causing a major accident which costs millions of dollars to settle. This new era of wearable technology can tell you before the driver ever sets foot into the cab if he’s safe to drive or not. Insurance companies are catching onto this technology – and in a big way. As you’re reading this article insurance companies are looking at ways to further reduce their risk to themselves and their shareholders. 

You might be thinking – okay, insurance companies want to do this, but is it legal? The answer to that is overwhelmingly yes. In fact legislative bodies in the US are already re-framing guidelines to permit the use of wearable technology in the workplace. A whole new era of compliance and safety measures awaits the energy and mining industry. 

The real question is – can energy and mining companies afford to wait for wearable technology or do they need to be proactive? The answer here is a bit more complicated. As with most things, costs tend to be much higher when a safety or compliance measure is mandatory vs. optional. For example, anyone who has tried to buy their own healthcare in the last five years has done a double-take looking at premiums. Imagine now you’re looking at wearable technology for the workplace. Do you want to be doing a double take on acquiring this technology in five years? 

What can I do now to prevent doing a double take in five years? The first step – talk to your insurer. Many insurance companies are considering lower rates for organizations that proactively obtain wearable technology now in exchange for sharing the actionable data. The second step – look at your HSE policies and check to see how closely they are really being followed. The reason I say this is the most likely reaction you had with step one is “oh great my insurance rates are going to go up” but the truth is if your policies match up – you won’t have a problem, if they don’t that’s going to be a different story. Then it’s on to step three – enlist the help of a HSE consultant who can guide you through the new world of wearable technology and HSE. These professionals will prove their value to you almost instantly. 

Besides insurance, integrating wearables into the workplace can provide additional benefits. Imagine you are trying to get the very best talent to work in your refinery, mines, mills, plants, etc. Let’s say you’re competing for this talent against top competitors who offer state of the art working environments with the best equipment and safety technology. Where do you think the workers will prefer? Can you afford to lose top talent? Hiring qualified employees is going to become difficult as older employees leave and the labor market shrinks. Let us not forget organized labor will catch on to the wearable trend too. How long before your employees’ labor unions move to have wearable technology implemented as a safeguard for their membership? 

There is an additional benefit when considering the impact of lost work time. Better safety technology reduces the frequency of employment related injuries and, thus, lost time.

Right now there are workers working in your refineries, your mills, mines, plants and on the road for your company. It’s very easy to manipulate manual systems or to report that an employee got that full eight hours sleep before getting on the highway with a gasoline tanker. But what if they lie? What if their managers lie for them? What if they get into an accident? What if that accident is very high profile and you and your company’s name are all over the news as being responsible? What if your competition goes on national and global TV touting their wearable technology program and how it prevents those kind of accidents? 

The truth of it is companies have multiple responsibilities in this area. The first and most obvious responsibility is to their employees. It is your responsibility to make sure those employees to the best of your ability are given safe working environments and conditions and the truth is those old manual reactive ways – those are not the best ways and companies can do much better. The second responsibility is to the public at large. People want to go on their Memorial Day vacation without having to worry about truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel and injuring their family. The third but not final responsibility is to your shareholders. They want you to do everything in your power to increase the bottom line – and getting sued by victims of accidents, increased acquisition costs of future technology when it’s eventually mandatory and spiked insurance premiums because of inconsistencies are not going to make them happy. 

John Smithers is the director of business development at Bridgecrest Medical. For more information, visit www.bridgecrestmed.com.

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