Wearable Technology and the Future of Work Comp Claims

Todd Pollock

Senior Vice President, Workers’ Compensation

September 13, 2019

By Todd Pollock, Senior Vice President, Workers’ Compensation

As businesses look to reduce the amount and frequency of workers’ comp claims, wearable technology is fast becoming a strategic tool to help lower overall claim costs. Although this technology is still in its infancy, it is providing employers with new insights into the safety and practices of their employees.

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), total workers’ compensation claim severity has increased by 13% from 2011 to 2016. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 33% of workers’ compensation claims were filed for injuries that could have been prevented with early intervention programs. Wearables can be helpful in indicating certain types of stressors on an employee before a claim happens or, at the very minimum, limiting the severity of a claim.

Currently, most tests involving early intervention and wearables have been completed only in indoor industrial environments. However, the transportation and construction industries — which have seen the largest increase in claim severity, according to NCCI data — have expressed interest in wearables to better minimize workers’ compensation claims.

Wearable technology can:

Improve Claim Prevention Efforts

NCCI data shows that workplace lost-time claims are most commonly due to strains or injuries from lifting or pulling, which can damage the lower back, knees and shoulders. During the proof of concept phase, it was reported that one stakeholder indicated a 30%-50% reduction in back injuries. Today’s wearables can indicate an employee’s physical activity and posture as well as conditions in the workplace, providing a glimpse of the working environment. They can also indicate an employee’s location or exposure to hazardous materials in certain industries.

Provide Real-Time Data

Data collected from wearables takes time to register and deliver for analysis, making it difficult to intervene before an injury. Studies are still in the beginning phases, but the industry is working toward showing real-time data for an employer to track. This would allow employees to receive notification if they are conducting unsafe work practices, effectively preempting injury or risk.

Alert Workers to Potential Dangers

Some types of wearable technology can be used to alert employees of potentially hazardous conditions in the workplace. For example, in particular occupations, there are certain types of helmets designed to alert employees to falling objects to help prevent head injuries.

Improve Return-to-Work Programs

Wearables can be used after an injury to allow employees to return to work by limiting certain activities to allow a quicker recovery. For example, exoskeletons, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, have been used to facilitate the return of an injured worker by increasing productivity and reducing the need for in-home care and assistive devices

Wearable technology investments are projected to grow to almost $70 billion by 2025. No doubt we’ll begin to see more companies using this technology to make more informed decisions regarding the safety of their employees.

At Worldwide Facilities, LLC., we have the expertise, market reach, and high-level customer service to help brokers meet the needs of their business owner clients. For information on our workers’ compensation programs, contact Todd Pollock at tpollock@wwfi.com or (508) 625-3547

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