Case Study: Wearables and the pursuit of zero injuries

March 2, 2021
The wearable program is focused on reducing workers’ musculoskeletal injuries.

By Haytham Elhawary, cofounder and CEO of KINETIC

The quest for zero is a common pursuit among industrial safety professionals with frontline workers. It means putting safety first and continuously working to improve processes and build on a culture of safety. And like any quest, it benefits from the right tools and an engaged team. 

Smart wearable technology can augment a company’s positive safety culture and help take existing programs from good to great by delivering objective data and actionable insights, as well as engaging workers in the safety process. 

Iron Mountain uses data insights to engage employees  

Iron Mountain, a leading storage and information-management company, has been fortifying their already-strong safety culture with a wearable program focused on reducing workers’ musculoskeletal injuries. One driver team, located at their shred facility in Oxnard, Ca., is seeing standout results.

Since August, Rudy Ramirez Jr., transportation supervisor at the Oxnard facility, has been leveraging data insights from Kinetic REFLEX wearables to engage his drivers in the safety process. Every week Ramirez uses a dashboard-created report to track the drivers with the most high risk postures (HRPs). He shares the data with his team in a weekly huddle and together they brainstorm solutions to reduce the risky movements. 

Because HRPs are a leading indicator for injuries, when they are reduced, injury reduction follows. This is something workers can control, especially with the help of a wearable device that alerts users when a risky posture has been performed. 

To get employees excited about the wearable program, Ramirez initiated a series of three-month challenges where, each month, the drivers with the fewest HRPs win a prize. This encourages participation and helps build upon the safety culture, as drivers become more aware of how they can impact their own safety. The challenges have resulted in a friendly team competition and remarkable results. 

In the first three months, drivers went from having 300 HRPs a week down to as few as 20. Average weekly total HRPs reduced by 42%.

Additionally, already-high employee participation in the wearables program grew to an even greater level, increasing 5%, with an average 93% of employees wearing the device for at least three days per week. Ramirez further reported that associates who initially didn’t want to participate started requesting a device, and others who initially didn’t want one wouldn’t give it up. 

However, the biggest win was zero injuries during the initial three-month challenge—a genuine marker of success in an ongoing objective to keep workers safe and healthy.

The impact on culture has been notable too, with Ramirez praising the way the wearables program and challenges have brought drivers together. He said, “I believe this kind of communication with our drivers is needed. We’re showing them that we’re looking out for their best interest, which includes them doing their job safely so they can go home to their families at the end of the day.” 

How to get the most from industrial wearables

Exciting results, like those coming from this team at Iron Mountain, are achievable with a well-implemented wearable-safety solution. For companies that have already adopted this tech, or those considering an investment, here are a few tips for best results. 

1. Explain the program’s intent: From the beginning, communicate your goals to employees. Be sure to anticipate and address misconceptions around privacy and disciplinary actions associated with the data. And work to set realistic expectations. For example, some high-risk behaviors are unavoidable, but data insights might lead to process improvements.

2. Encourage employee participation: User acceptance and involvement support a successful wearable program. To encourage team adoption, wear the device yourself and become an expert on how it works. Provide proper training on how to use the wearable, and make yourself available to answer questions. Be sure to set team and individual goals, and offer incentives for program participants. 

3. Work wearables into your safety culture: Present the devices as a tool intended to complement and enhance your existing safety program. Look for ways to fit the device into current routines and find ways for data to enhance your program—like scheduling regular safety meetings or sharing new safety observations.