3 Keys to Combat ‘Big Brother’ Fears with Safety Technology

By: | February 27, 2024

Michelle Kerr is Workers’ Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

Over the past several months, I’ve had the good fortune to chat with some of the top carriers in workers’ comp, and even visited Chubb’s unique training facility in Branchburg, N.J. I’ve learned quite a lot about the latest and greatest safety technology that carriers have on offer for their insureds.  

Some of these tools are incredibly promising, with proven results. So, what’s keeping some insureds from taking advantage of these programs? Insurers and insureds tell me the same: Employees don’t want Big Brother watching them.  

Well, why doesn’t someone want Big Brother watching them? Because the perception is that Big Brother exists to be punitive. The way employers adopt and explain their safety tech programs can go a long way toward changing that perception.    

Here are three key elements to keep in mind to better align your workforce with your goals and reduce employee mistrust when implementing new injury prevention tech.  

Culture: If your organization has a top-down approach to safety and demonstrates it every day, implementing new safety technology should be less of an uphill climb. Keep the bigger organizational picture in mind, though — if your safety culture is strong but your organization has an overall lack of transparency and uses other programs in a punitive way, you’ll still face mistrust and pushback. 

Education: Workers should have a full understanding of the program in advance — what the technology can and cannot do, what the organization’s goals are in using it, what’s being read or measured, and how the data’s being used. 

Consider your generational mix. Younger workers in particular are keen to have a complete understanding of the “why” behind decisions that affect them. The more transparency you can offer about your program and its goals, the better.  

Be clear on what will be done when red flags arise. What happens if a worker with a wearable is flagged frequently for unsafe movement? Explain how you will respond, whether that means one-on-one coaching or another intervention.  

But also explain how you won’t respond. Even the best organizations may have employees who’ve been burned by other employers in the past. Will a need for multiple interventions prompt a negative report in my employment file? Will the company secretly be using this device to measure my productivity or make sure I don’t take long bathroom breaks? These are the types of questions employees may be wondering about silently, unless you tell them up front what your organization will and will not do with its program, whether it’s wearables or any other safety technology. 

Employee ROI: The bottom line of safety technology is that it protects workers. But just saying that without more context is a little bit like saying, “Eat your broccoli; it’s good for you.”  

Get help from the data. Let’s say the device you’re implementing has been shown to reduce MSDs by 30% in the first six months. That’s a 30% increase in the chance of a worker being able to come home and hoist a giggling toddler over their head, care for an aging parent or take part in a pick-up game with their buddies that weekend. Be clear about what employees’ return is for the investment of fully engaging in the program.  

Don’t be shy about the dollars, either. If the company is projected to reduce costs because of the program, how will those savings directly or indirectly impact worker jobs?  

Now more than ever, people are afraid of the hidden “gotcha” lurking beneath what looks good on the surface. Transparency and knowledge can go a long way toward neutralizing that fear. & 

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