An Edinburgh-based technology firm has launched a wrist-worn device that will alert workers and their employers if they stray within two metres of a colleague.
The ‘Safedistance’ gadget has been devised by Reactec based on existing technology designed to protect workers from harmful vibration.
It is designed for use within workplaces including construction, rail and manufacturing, and uses bluetooth to monitor whether two people wearing the watches are within two metres of each other.
If workers get too close both devices will buzz and give an audio alert.
When the gadget is returned to its charging station at the end of the day any social distancing breaches are compiled into GDPR-compliant reports for employers.
It can also be expanded to give supervisors real-time information about employees’ social distancing breaches.
The device can be adapted to ring-fence work teams into controlled cohorts who need to work more closely together, and can also be used for contact-tracing of any employees who have been near a colleague diagnosed with Covid-19.
A number of construction and rail companies are now trialling the new technology, which was developed in just 15 days.
It was based on Reactec’s Hand Arm Vibration (HAV) monitor, HAVwear, designed to prevent Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or Vibration White Finger, an industrial disease often caused by the prolonged use of hand tools, which can damage blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints.
The company is offering to add the Safedistance software free of charge and remotely to the 45,000 HAVwear devices already in use in the UK.
Jacqui McLaughlin, CEO of Reactec, said: “Social distancing will clearly be with us for some time and it’s vital that when people get back to work they can do so safely. Our team has moved quickly to repurpose our technology to help businesses to ensure that their teams are working safely.
“Reactec, is already dedicated to helping reduce the damage to workers’ health from exposure to vibration, so developing our technology to include social distancing was a logical next step in response to COVID-19. We want to play our part in getting everyone back to work safely and with confidence.”
The company has discussed the device at Ministerial level with the Scottish Government.
Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee said: “In response to this pandemic, companies right across Scotland have been diversifying production lines, increasing capacity or exploring new distribution routes to help deliver what is needed, when it’s needed.
“Technology is going to play a crucial role in helping us overcome the long-term challenges presented by COVID-19 so it is great to see innovative, dynamic companies repurposing existing technology to help us protect workers from potential exposure in the future.”
Civil engineering group Keltbray is one of the companies trialling Safedistance.
Managing Director of Demolitions and Civils Paul Deacy said: “Keltbray already uses HAVwear as it’s a robust product and the analytics reporting with its automation and GDPR compliance are critical factors to Keltbray providing actionable intelligence.
“So when Reactec approached us to trial the new social distance functionality we already had confidence in the product. Keltbray is encouraged by this new offering. This could truly assist us in managing social distancing across our projects.”