The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a new technology category — social distancing and contact tracing platforms that monitor the locations of workers and ensure they stay at least six feet apart to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Through visual cues or audible alerts, these solutions let workers know when they’re too close to each other, so they can quickly step away. Employers and on-site managers can also use the tools to determine locations where workers congregate and make the necessary changes to prevent bottlenecks or gathering points.
While the tools aim to solve the same problem — limiting exposure to the coronavirus by encouraging physical distancing as recommended by public health authorities — they deliver the solution in different ways.
Some social distancing technology is wearable and attaches to workers’ wrists or helmets, for example. Others are embedded in lanyards and ID badges or downloaded through a smartphone app.
Each social distancing technology format comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons of social distancing formats.
Worn like a watch, these wristbands are easy to wear and don’t interfere with other gear. But because they are worn on the wrist, they aren’t positioned at a worker’s center of mass — and that matters when using the tool for social distancing in some workplaces.
For employees who work in an assembly line or in another job where their arms are constantly outstretched, the wristband could be two-feet farther away from the rest of the body. As a result, the device won’t provide an accurate measure of how close workers actually are to each other.
App-based social distancing technology makes it easy for users to simply download the solution to their smartphone. For workers, there’s no extra gear to remember — or forget — as they head in to work.
But smartphones can present their own issues. In some industries, such as construction, smartphones may be banned from the jobsite because they have proven to be a distraction or introduce safety issues. At the same time, a smartphone tucked in a pocket could interfere with certain network signals.
App-based solutions on a smartphone also raise privacy concerns for employees. They could potentially track a worker after they leave the office or worksite.
Fobs, Badges and Lanyards
For many workplaces, social distancing technology delivered via fobs, badges and lanyards may seem like an obvious choice. They can be multifunctional, simply added to an identification badge that an employee already is wearing. And most are waterproof or water resistant.
But they won’t work in every scenario. Lanyards can get caught in machinery or conveyors, posing a serious safety risk in some industries. The small, flat formats are easily misplaced or lost. And fobs and badges often are tucked inside wallets, which could put up an extra barrier between the object and any network signal, calling into question the accuracy of its findings.
Some solutions use cameras and television screens to notify workers as they’re moving through their offices or jobsites that they’re too close to each other. To use, individual employees don’t need any special hardware or have to download any apps to their smartphone. Companies simply install the cameras and screens at strategic points.
But cameras can’t capture every space, including smaller areas such as elevators or bathrooms where employees are likely to gather and have no ability to perform contact tracing as the individuals are not being identified, nor are close contact interactions being logged.
With Proximity Trace™, our social distancing and contract tracing solution, workers are issued TraceTags which can be attached to the front of a hardhat or worn on the body. Employees get immediate alerts when they are too close to each other.
For managers, Proximity Trace offers real-time insights into when workers come in contact with one another and for how long. If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, employers can quickly pull up a list of employees who may have been exposed to take appropriate steps to curb coronavirus transmission.
And it comes with other advantages to help employers navigate this new normal in the workplace, including automated time and attendance, which removes the need for check-in stations.
Are you looking for a social distancing and contracting tracing solution for your workplace? Contact us to learn how we can help.