Workers’ comp insurers are applauding wearable tech initiatives as a potential way to monitor and reduce workplace accidents and injuries. But some observers are asking at what cost to privacy.
AIG recently announced its strategic investment in tech startup Human Condition Safety (HCS). The start-up, a spin-out of Human Condition Labs, develops wearable technology that incorporates artificial intelligence, building information modeling and cloud computing to try to prevent workplace injuries. The company is targeting industries that hold the highest risk for workers, including heavy manufacturing, energy, warehousing and distribution, mining, transportation and construction.
Because state laws require businesses to provide medical coverage, rehabilitation services and lost wages to injured employees through workers’ compensation programs, coverage in this area is one of the insurance industry’s largest product lines. By decreasing employee injuries and deaths through wearables, the industry believes it may be able to lower costs and increase profits for itself and its clients. Employers have many incentives to test these products in their work environments.
But before concussion-detecting sensors in hard hats or fatigue-monitoring wristbands become widespread for workers, the tipping point may be that issue of privacy. Experts in workers’ comp say companies must first investigate employment legalities and may need to negotiate with labor unions.
As a result, insurance defense law firms that defend workers’ comp claims will want to pay close attention to emerging technology trends such as wearable tech and other similar innovations for the following reasons:
- Any safety initiatives that may reduce the number and severity of claims will reduce the number of claims that need to be litigated.
- There will be privacy implications for both employees and employers. When it comes to granting access to individuals’ behavior and health information, law firms need to familiarize themselves with the type and purpose of data being collected, as well as the protection of that data.
- Insurance carriers will continue to evaluate how new technologies might eliminate claims and reduce claims costs.
Wearable tech is still in its infancy because employees need to be convinced that the information collected for the safety of the greater good is worth it. Pilot programs underway may take a year or more before they are actually put into practice in workers’ compensation insurance programs, but insurance defense law firms will want to demonstrate an understanding of these technology trends to better serve the needs of insurers and their insureds.
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