NSC Releases Research on Location Geofencing Technology to Help Advance Workplace Safety

Despite increased efforts to reduce serious incidents and fatalities, or SIFs, in the workplace over the last few decades, the percentage of worker deaths has only fallen by about 15%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recognizing the severity of this issue, the National Safety Council launched the Work to Zero initiative in 2019, with funding from the McElhattan Foundation, to help reverse this devastating trend through the use of technology. 

The NSC Work to Zero initiative recently released a new white paper, Advancing Workplace Safety with Location Geofencing, to shed light on the transformative potential of this technology and how it can significantly reduce the risk of SIFs in various industries.

“Workers on active jobsites are often exposed to situations that pose a high risk for SIFs, including construction, vehicle-pedestrian interactions and heavy equipment operation,” said John Dony, vice president of workplace strategy at NSC. “Acknowledging how this is a major concern for workers across many industries, this report provides invaluable insights into leveraging location geofencing technology to mitigate risks and help ensure employee wellbeing, which is the ultimate goal of the Work to Zero initiative.”

Often integrated into existing safety technologies like proximity sensors, wearables and vehicle monitoring systems, location geofencing allows users to create virtual barriers around defined areas, such as construction sites or machine operating zones. This enables real-time monitoring and alerts when workers enter or leave designated zones, enhancing their safety. For example, when an object, like a worker or equipment, enters or exits the area, predetermined actions are triggered, such as logging the event, alerting workers of potential hazards, or disabling machinery. 

Developed through a comprehensive literature review and collaboration with industry professionals, the white paper presents an in-depth exploration of location geofencing and its various use cases in safety-sensitive industries, such as construction, logging and forestry, manufacturing and utilities. Some key benefits identified were:

  • Risk mitigation: The technology serves as an effective risk mitigation tool by alerting workers and supervisors of potential hazards, improving situational awareness and enabling two-way communication for workers
  • Enhanced worksite visibility: Geofencing increases worksite visibility, enabling data-informed decisions for site planning and safety measures
  • Improved efficiency: Automation of safety processes reduces the need for continuous human supervision, optimizing resource allocation and safety management

While the report examines the benefits of location geofencing, additional research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness across many situations in the workplace. Some barriers to widespread adoption for employers include:

  • Privacy concerns: Worker concerns regarding data privacy and security must be addressed through transparent communication and strong data privacy policies
  • Resource investments: High initial capital and resource investments may hinder adoption, necessitating careful evaluation of the technology’s utility and integration capabilities
  • Technological limitations: Accuracy and reliability issues, as well as compatibility with existing systems, should be considered during the procurement process

This white paper builds on the NSC Work to Zero Safety Innovation Journey to help organizations assess risks, identify technology solutions and ready workplaces for implementation. Funded by the McElhattan Foundation, the Work to Zero initiative aims to eliminate workplace fatalities through the use of technology.

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