Research Shows Value of Fatigue-Monitoring Technology

Credit: ASSP.
A worker demonstrates the assembly task used in the study while wearing sensors.

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Foundation released a fatigue-research report that shows the value of wearable technology in the workplace. The 3-year study was led by Lora Cavuoto at the University at Buffalo and Fadel Megahed at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio. The project also involved researchers from Auburn University and the University of Dayton.

The study, which ended in December, demonstrated how to capture a worker’s safety performance and translate the data into personal fatigue levels. It is the first step in creating a comprehensive framework that can identify research-supported interventions that protect workers from injuries caused by being tired on the job.

“Fatigue is a hidden danger in the workplace, but now we’ve tackled the measurement and modeling of fatigue through wearable sensors, incorporating big-data analytics and safety engineering,” Cavuoto said. “Information is power, so knowing when, where, and how fatigue impacts worker safety is critical. You can’t identify solutions until you pinpoint the problems.”

According to the National Safety Council, fatigue costs US employers more than $130 billion a year in health-related lost productivity. In addition, more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. A typical US company with 1,000 employees can expect to lose more than $1 million each year to fatigue, which can often increase the workloads of other human operators. This phenomenon has been reported in advanced manufacturing, warehousing, truck driving, construction, and other occupations.

The research funded by the the ASSP Foundation involved 25 participants wearing nonobtrusive wrist, hip, and ankle sensors while completing three tasks commonly performed by manufacturing workers—assembly, stocking, and remaining in a static or flexed position. Each person worked in 3-hour increments. The study demonstrated that meaningful safety data can be collected by an employer in a cost-effective manner without interfering with a worker’s daily routine.

“By setting parameters, we identified behavioral changes in how people conduct work over time,” Cavuoto said. “For example, we saw how workers performed the same task in the first hour as compared to the third hour when fatigue became a factor. Wearable technology can uncover precursors to larger problems and help establish safety interventions that may call for scheduled breaks, posture adjustments, or vitamin supplements that help the body.”

Read the full story here.

Read the report here (PDF).



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