Our world 2021
A pilot program is underway at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) to reduce workplace injuries through wearable technology.
Serco’s Safety, Environment and Wellbeing (SEW) team are trialing the use of body sensors with employees in Waste Management, Supplies, Linen, Catering and Cleaning who perform heavy manual handling duties as part of their role, to identify how movement, load and time of day influence the risk of injury.
SEW Lead, Chris Gifford, said wearable technology has the potential to offer significant insight into the impact of certain tasks on employees which can then be applied to prevent manual handling injuries.
“Wearable technology has been used by athletes for years to provide scientific data on how their bodies move. Recently this approach has been adapted by companies seeking to better understand how employees use their bodies when undertaking manual handling duties, so that appropriate measures can be put in place to reduce the risk of injury,” Chris said.
Employees who have volunteered to participate in the trial wear sensors on their backs and arms for the duration of their shift. The sensors send data to a cloud-based dashboard which can be viewed by the SEW team to see which tasks have a higher physical load and how people move differently throughout their shift. The data can also be used by employees to measure their own movements and receive alerts when they move in an unsafe or inefficient way.
Through the trial, the SEW team have identified injury risks for specific tasks as well as fatigue-related injury risks for 28 employees.
“Many of the injuries that our employees have relate to manual handling. By knowing which tasks have higher risk, we can work with managers to ensure higher risk tasks are distributed amongst the team and across the day,” Chris said.
“We can also identify how the load or impact of a specific task differs from one person to the next, based on the technique they use or fatigue that may be caused by the other tasks they are performing. This valuable insight means we can work with employees to identify the best technique for them to perform a specific task, by reducing load through movement control.”
“In one example, we identified that the majority of an employee’s back load occurs during the third hour of their shift. We then identified which tasks were performed during the third hour and now try to distribute these tasks throughout the shift. We have also worked with the employee to use different techniques for performing the task which reduce the load on their back.”
Serco FSH Contract Director, Helen Robinson said the trial is a significant step towards achieving a zero harm workplace.
“The safety of our employees is extremely important to Serco and being part of this trial offers an innovative way to revitalise our safety focus,” Helen said.
“In addition to giving our Safety and Wellbeing team real time data about how our people are moving, this approach empowers employees to be able to identify their own risk profile and physical fatigue, and take the necessary steps to prevent an injury from occurring.”