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Smart PPE supplier addresses data privacy

28 Oct 20 The definition of worker safety must now include the protection of personal information, says smart PPE company Kenzen.

Managers can monitor the activity of team members
Managers can monitor the activity of team members

The arrival of so-called smart PPE, such as straps and patches to monitor heart rate, temperature or other vitals – or just to monitor activity – brings with it a whole new debate about ethical issues. What happens to all the data that is collected?

One supplier of such systems has produced a privacy policy, giving wearers of smart PPE a degree of control of their data.

Kenzen is a US company that recently launched a physiological monitoring system to keep workers safe from heat, over-exertion and illness. It says that its new privacy policy for its system is “precedent-setting in the data collection industry”.

The privacy policy details the type of information collected from a worker, how a worker can opt out of the system, how long the data is available, and who owns it. The policy is accessible on the Kenzen website and designed to be easy to understand, telling workers their rights when Kenzen is deployed at their worksite.

The Kenzen system collects 1.3 million data points per worker per day. The information is used to protect the workers from injury on the job while helping to optimize total worker health. Three distinct views of the data are available at different levels within a company, one for the worker, one for the site safety supervisor, and one for the corporate health & safety office. Kenzen’s algorithms filter data at each level to keep the most private information available only to the worker. When the information indicates a need for an intervention to prevent the worker from overheating, an alert and suggested next steps are sent to the supervisor. At the corporate level, health & safety teams receive anonymised trend information derived from the original data, which they can use to make decisions to improve safety at the worksite.

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The technology and the privacy policy were built from the ground up with the worker as the primary focus, according to Heidi Lehmann, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Kenzen.

“The definition of worker safety now includes protection of personal information,” she said. “From the beginning, we’ve engineered worker privacy into our technology and now have created a standard-setting companion privacy policy. Until now, companies had to weigh the benefits of saving lives and gaining productivity against the risk of exposing workers’ personal data in the process. As the business case for personal monitoring gets stronger, worker privacy safeguards must also get stronger.”

“This is a model for all smart PPE companies,” said Kelly DeMarchis Bastide, partner at Venable law firm, which collaborated with Kenzen on the policy and is known for its work in data privacy.

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