Imagine a world in which workers’ movements are monitored by specially designed vests capable of providing information about the events leading up to workplace accidents. While this may sound like a Big Brother-esque fantasy, it is actually a technology that is currently being pioneered by a company called Human Condition Safety. The vests will apparently rely on sensors attached to the back of workers’ vests to transmit data about movements in real time. Lest one wonder the true motive behind this technology’s development, a video posted on the website of one of its primary investors, insurance giant AIG, admits that such sensors could help decrease “fraud” related to workplace accidents.
Data to cut expenses
Notwithstanding the vests’ apparent potential to improve safety, spying on workers for minute-by-minute information about individuals’ conduct is a new low for profit-seeking employers and insurers. With workers’ comp coverage making up the largest insurance expense for many businesses, employers may be all too eager to agree to insurers’ requests to foist these vests on workers.
Will employers prioritize profits or safety?
The vests may not be all bad news for workers in industries such as construction, heavy manufacturing, mining, and transportation. If employers actually use the data to implement additional safety measures or develop new protocols, businesses may be able to save money while protecting their workers. With sensors in hardhats and other protective gear, doctors may even be able to glean data about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.
The beginning of the end?
Potential safety benefits aside, the data sensor-equipped vests and hardhats could also be used to prevent injured workers from successfully filing claims for workers’ comp benefits. While employers could sniff out clear cut cases of fraud, there is also the possibility that protocols and policies could be put forth in which certain types of falls, trips, or other injuries could be excluded categorically from coverage. This would erode the no-fault approach that is supposed to be the cornerstone of the entire workers’ comp system.