Skip to content

Saved by Science: Wearable Technology Delivers Fewer Injuries and Increased Efficiency


By: Kevin Fipps, Contributor

Wearable technology has emerged as a game-changer in the workplace. Tech gadgets such as smartwatches, smart glasses and fitness trackers are transforming the way we work by improving worker safety.

Wearable devices can monitor employee movements and alert co-workers of danger, as well as measure fatigue, body temperature and repetitive motion. The data compiled by wearables can assist in health management and be leveraged to improve employee training and ergonomics for workplace wellness and injury prevention programs.

How Wearables Can Solve Your Workplace Safety Challenges

Wearable technology solves a variety of problems in the industrial workplace. For instance, wearables address safety concerns by providing workers with real-time data about potential hazards and safety violations.

This can help prevent injuries, lost work time and workers’ compensation claims. Biometric monitors can measure workers’ vital signs, such as heart rate variability and breathing volume, and detect sleepiness using smart glasses. GPS and Bluetooth can be used to track the location of workers and equipment on a worksite. Amazon utilized this type of data to reduce musculoskeletal injuries from repetitive motion by 32%.[1]

In the construction industry, smart helmets with vibration sensors can alert employees of potentially dangerous changes in their surroundings. High-tech vests with sensors can also alert construction employees when they are near a hazardous area.

Manufacturing operations can deploy wearable technology that senses when employees are near heavy machinery and alerts equipment operators of other workers. Proximity sensors could save 87 individuals killed every year by forklift collisions.[2]

Wearables are improving operational efficiency by providing workers with instant access to important information, automating tasks and optimizing processes. This data can also help companies monitor employee performance, track equipment status and location, and enhance worker training and development. UPS and FedEx loaders and unloaders employ handheld scanners and monitors that track all packages on and off trucks in the facility. Operation supervisors can instantly measure individual performance and shift resources before they fall behind.

Great Potential for Worksite Improvements

Advantages to deploying wearable technologies range from the jobsite to the boardroom. Here are three benefits of using wearable technology in the workplace:

  • Improved worker safety: Wearable technology can provide workers with real-time data and insights, helping to prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace. At a Fujitsu factory, smart wristwear issues alert at signs of heat stress, while at a mining company, smart helmets detect driver fatigue.
  • Enhanced productivity: Wearables can automate tasks, streamline processes and provide workers with instant access to essential information, reducing downtime and increasing overall productivity. At Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, smart watches alert cleaning crews when and where they are needed. Dynamic task scheduling produces cleaner facilities than fixed rounds did, resulting in a better traveler experience.
  • Optimized operations: Wearables can help companies monitor employee performance, track equipment status and location, and identify ways to optimize processes and workflows. Lufthansa embraced voice-based headphones to enable a single technician to accomplish the maintenance work that previously required two. One person would read out instructions, while another would execute them and report status, which the first would then write down. With the wearable, the maintenance checklist gets converted to voice commands conveyed to a technician’s headphones; the technician then executes the tasks and speaks out the status, with that speech automatically converted into data and stored.

Follow the Leaders

Here are three examples of companies using wearable technology to achieve significant improvement in their operations:


Aerospace leader Boeing uses smart glasses to guide workers during electrical assembly and harness routing, reducing the time workers spend on documenting work by 25%. These wearables help monitor and track inventory throughout the factory floor to ensure that parts are always in the right place at the right time. Boeing’s successful adoption of wearable technology has significantly reduced human error and improved overall manufacturing efficiency.

General Electric

General Electric uses wearable technology to track worker movements, monitor energy use and optimize work processes. A “Smart Helmet” that includes cameras, sensors and voice recognition systems has been implemented in GE’s aviation unit to provide visual guidance and track worker progress with built-in enterprise solutions to ensure worker efficiency and quality consistency.


PepsiCo equips workers with high-tech vests with sensors that collect data on posture, lifting, bending and twisting movements of their workers. The data collected is used to boost collaboration between workers and ergonomics experts to identify potential injury risks and provide training to prevent these risks from becoming long-term injuries.

Get the Right Tech Tools

Wearable options include:

  • Augmented reality glasses provide workers with real-time information, guidance and alerts about their tasks and environment.
  • Environmental monitoring devices measure and warn workers about hazardous substances, such as gases, VOCs, heat, cold, noise or radiation.
  • Proximity warning systems detect and prevent collisions between workers and vehicles or machinery.
  • Worker vital sign monitoring devices racks and alert workers and supervisors about health issues, such as heart rate, blood pressure, fatigue, stress or dehydration.
  • Lone worker monitoring devices enable workers to communicate with emergency services or colleagues in case of an accident or injury.
  • Worker ergonomics devices measure and improve workers’ posture, movement and lifting techniques to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Smart hard hats protect workers from head injuries and provide them with features such as cameras, sensors, GPS or speakers.

Overcome Challenges to Deployment

Wearable technology is only as good as the plan to deploy it, the training to use it and employee willingness to employ it. Some employees may turn off or leave behind wearables if they feel they are being watched or tracked. However, if devices have built-in man-down alarms (ie., air packs for firefighters, gas monitors, bio harnesses and communication devices) the wearable technology is non-intrusive. This makes it easier to deploy, and less overwhelming for the user.

Here are some examples of challenges associated with wearables in the workplace, and some tips to address them.

  • Data privacy concerns: Wearables collect substantial amounts of data about employees, including biometric data and location data. Be transparent with employees about how their data will be collected, used and protected.
  • Employee acceptance and engagement: Some employees may be wary of using wearables, particularly if they are concerned about privacy or feel that wearables could be used to monitor or evaluate their performance. Inform employees about the technology and its benefits to improve acceptance and lead to a positive experience with work-related wearable technology. Younger employees are statistically shown to be swifter at embracing innovative technology, they can often serve as test pilots for new gear.
  • Cost: The costs associated with widespread deployment of wearables would be prohibitive to some operations, but as technology improves, so does the affordability of tech options. Smartwatches, Fitbit, hand scanners, proximity sensors and other wearable gadgets have seen prices fall steadily since their introduction, as much as 18% per year in some sectors. Coupled with the potential savings in lost time and compensation claims due to injuries, these start-up costs are quickly outweighed by the benefits.

Overall, wearable technology offers a wide range of benefits that can streamline operations, reduce costs and increase profits for companies. Wearable technology is ushering in a new era of workplace safety and productivity that will shape the future of work for decades to come. If you are interested in the latest wearable technology trends or want to understand how wearables can benefit your business, now is the time to explore the possibilities. WMHS

Kevin Fipps is a safety professional based in Portland, Oregon. He has extensive safety industry training and planning experience at multiple global operations. He also authors a monthly safety column called, Tips from Fipps.



Share on Socials!

Related Articles

Related Articles

Understanding the New ANSI Standard for Self-Retracting Lifelines: What’s Improved & How to Increase Safety in Your Workplace

By Michael Cameron, Contributor With fall protection being the #1 OSHA violation for more than a decade, it’s no surprise that companies continue to invest in ...
Read More

Crane Operator Employer’s Responsibilities

By: Ron Overton, Contributor The employer must ensure that each operator is trained on the operation and use of the specific crane and tasks to be ...
Read More

Registration Opens for ASSP’s Safety 2023

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) has opened registration for its signature safety event. The Safety 2023 Professional Development Conference and Exposition will be held in person June 5-7 ...
Read More

Follow WMHS!


Sign Up Today!

Not a Subscriber?


Ind Hygiene


Scroll To Top