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The CxO’s necessary guide to contact tracing


The CxO’s necessary guide to contact tracing


Workplace safety has been an occasional topic of discussion from the start of the Industrial Revolution. Although industries across the world have been increasing efforts to improve the health and safety of their workers, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought several major limitations to the front.

As social distancing and remote support-driven safety become two broad themes of discussion in the market today, CXOs need to take quick and decisive steps towards contact tracing.

Contact tracing influences operational strategy

As the world prepares to get back to normal, contact tracing has taken center stage. New York City, for instance, has hired 3,000 workers for its ambitious contact tracing program. As shopping and dining reopen, the city looks to quickly identify people who have come in contact with those who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus. But how must contact tracing be viewed by the business enterprise?

Most agree that in the context of enterprise efforts, the contact tracing must be a coherent mix of tools + process + strategy.

Firstly, contact tracing must not become a record-keeping initiative. It must be a way to strengthen the operations strategy – especially in the industrial sector where thousands of people work in close contact with each other on a daily basis. Companies today need to create contact tracing strategies not just for compliance but also as the foundation of an extremely flexible operational strategy. The experience of the meatpacking industry has shown that if infections arise, entire production lines can be brought to a standstill as quarantines set in. In that scenario, the operational strategy of the company must be capable of isolating the at-risk individuals and rebuild an operational strategy that allows activities to carry on without those individuals. And it must be capable of allowing that switch extremely quickly to prevent more people from being exposed.

Contact tracing tools and guidelines

Much before the pandemic struck, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, created a guideline for companies for contact tracing. OSHA’s regulatory framework aimed to cover occupational exposure to contact, droplet, and airborne transmissible infectious agents. But given the severity and spread of COVID-19, this guideline might be outdated already. For social distancing to really work, organizations need to embrace solutions that merge social distancing with a remote support-driven approach.

Since the desired level of functionality for social distancing can range from very cheap to quite expensive, every organization needs to plan for a robust mechanism for contact tracing. While some are embracing smartwatches to measure and report on social distance, others are adopting Bluetooth tools to calculate distancing.

However, it’s clear that there is no technology that can be 100% accurate in showing proximity. Although they can use ultra-wideband (UWB) systems for density calculations, they are secondary ways to calculate distance and can’t be the only safety solutions organizations adapt for contact tracing. The more accuracy organizations seek, the more expensive contact tracing tools becoming.

Today, there are over 800 solutions that in some way or the other talk about contact tracing, but the market is extremely fragmented. Solutions that meet the needs of the current pandemic, those that can scale, and those that can integrate with evolving technologies are very few. What the industrial sector needs is a solution that delivers a human-centric view of the overall connected-worker space. A solution that makes workers feel safe – not just from a physical well-being perspective but also from a privacy perspective; solutions that can anonymize data and mask locations while simultaneously prioritizing workers’ needs are what the industry truly needs.

The Guardhat advantage

Guardhat is one of the very few companies that merge social distancing and remote-support approaches for effective contact tracing. By embracing modern technologies and solutions, Guardhat uses a differentiated tactic for contact tracing: a combination of automated and manual processes to enhance efficiency and reach. Such an approach helps automate tasks within the organization while asking people outside the organization to share details of any contact they might have had with a coronavirus positive person.

  • Guardhat’s contact tracing enables quick identification of people who have been in contact with a person of interest
  • Smart hard hat, tag, or 3rd party wearable/phone generates alerts when other worker moves within 6-feet of its location
  • Alert data is then sent to Guardhat’s IoT platform that enables immediate response as well as future analysis and reporting

Guardhat has tied up with 2 organizations: laboratory testing company EuroFyns and digital trial platform Medable to build a comprehensive social distancing solution. This integrated solution brings testing and community data together and makes it easier for large organizations to decide who is at greater risk:

  • Leveraging technologies across geofencing, connected wearables, and more, Guardhat is able to constantly track and identify people who may have been exposed, when, and how
  • Using a tree diagram that constantly updates lab testing data and people data from EuroFyns and Medable, Guardhat is quickly able to decide which branches of the tree (and thus which people) to isolate
  • As people’s test results emerge, the risk models change, so data is always accurate and up-to-date

The time for change has come

The pressure to keep workers safe and healthy in an industrial setup has always been high but has perhaps been ignored. Although workplace accidents such as trips and falls, toxic inhalation, exposure to loud noise, etc. are common, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the conditions for the appropriate investments to be made to keep the workforce safe. Organizations need to work towards the goal of adding more intelligence into the safety systems. From access control to IoT, analytics to peer-to-peer communication, real-time visualization, SOS functions, and more – the global outbreak has put worker safety into the spotlight. Don’t lose the opportunity the crisis presents to achieve your contact tracing goals while also building a comprehensive, modern, and intelligent worker safety solution.

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