Securely Track Vaccination, Test Status on the Job Site
For several years, Spot-r sensors from Triax Technologies Inc., Norwalk, Connecticut, have been used to track employees’ locations on job sites. The sensor, about the size of a pack of gum, is worn on the employee’s work belt and can be used to send and receive safety alerts, locate workers on the job, and record man hours, among other features.
In October 2021, Triax added another feature to its Spot-r sensors: the ability to control access to a job site by vaccination status.
The ability to control job site access by vaccination status is particularly timely ahead of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated or tests for Covid-19 on at least a weekly basis starting Jan. 4, 2022.
At press time, employees who satisfy OSHA’s exemption for employees who work exclusively outdoors will be exempt from ETS requirements for vaccination or weekly testing.
At press time, a federal appeals court decided to uphold a stay on the standard, so it’s important to remain informed of the ETS until a final decision has been made.
If instated, the ETS will require employers to develop, implement and enforce either mandatory Covid-19 vaccination or a weekly testing program for unvaccinated employees. Employers will also be required to determine employees’ vaccination status and maintain rosters of this information. This is where a tech solution like Spot-r can come in handy.
Triax’s vice president of product, Ian Ouellette, said he’s seen companies invest in software or build custom solutions to prepare for compliance with the new standard. However, he said, tracking employees’ status is only half of the equation.
“How does that tie into controlling who is on the site?” Ouellette asked. “Your software system won’t matter if OSHA comes to the job site that’s out of compliance. That’s where access control becomes very important.”
For several years, Triax’s Spot-r Mesh platform has been capable of controlling employee access to the job site by a number of metrics, including trade-type, certification, hours and workday. “We view this vaccine and testing management component as just another way we can provide value in the compliance area,” Ouellette said.
Control Access in Action
Controlling access by vaccination status begins with the safety manager or other approved manager inputting either vaccination status or the expiration date of a negative test result into the Spot-r platform. An employee’s vaccination or test status is listed alongside any other certifications.
Triax’s solutions offer several access levels on its platform to allow its customers to determine who within their organizations should have access to which data. Data security has been a priority for the company for years, since its systems have long been used to track sensitive data, including employees banned from job sites and injury data.
Although vaccination cards or test results don’t have to be saved in the system, Spot-r does allow for such document storage in the event a company would like to track compliance history.
On the job site, the Spot-r device can be used to scan in at a turnstile or a central check-in point, or triggered automatically when an employee wearing the device enters a preset geofence area. Ouellette points out that Spot-r only tracks workers within the geofence area. “Our wearables are a workplace solution,” he said. “Once the employee leaves that area, they are just a piece of plastic.”
If an employee’s vaccination or testing status is out of compliance, they will not be able to successfully scan in and the safety manager will be notified so they can connect with the employee to discuss the next steps to bring him or her back into compliance. If an employee who is out of compliance doesn’t have to scan in, the safety manager will still be notified and can either call the employee or use Spot-r’s locating feature to find them on the job site to stop that risk from continuing and discuss a course of action.
Spot-r also sends out notifications of certifications soon to expire so safety managers can be proactive. For example, if an employee’s negative test result expires in four days, the safety manager can remind him or her that it can take a couple days to get test results back and ensure they have a plan for their continued compliance.
“Our platform has solved the vaccine management and testing problem end-to-end for our clients,” Ouellette said, “but the technology that enables that solution will be relevant in other ways for a long time to come.” For example, he added, the growing trend of owners and agencies requiring certain safety or training certifications.
A September 2021 report from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and Dodge Data & Analytics found that wearable sensors were among the technologies contractors identified as most likely to improve safety in the future. Currently, around 10 percent of contractors use wearable sensors or predictive analytics, and 5 percent use visual monitoring with artificial intelligence (AI). However, the report found, the share of contractors who expect to implement these technologies in the next three years is more than double those who currently use them.
More Than Mandates
Control access is also just one feature of the Spot-r Mesh solution. Ouellette breaks down the features of the Spot-r Mesh platform into three categories.
- Its core features are focused on safety and security. This includes its access control features, job site evacuation notifications, transmitting and receiving safety alerts, and monitoring lone workers and falls. Spot-r also gives safety managers and/or supervisors a live headcount and the location of workers on the job site.
- Its financial features include automatic time cards, labor reports and equipment inventory management. As Ouellette puts it, “basic workforce and contractor accountability to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.”
- The platform’s optimization features include equipment utilization and job site optimization, or “getting the most value out of your assets,” Ouellette said. “Maybe you have five excavators but only two are regularly being used, or maybe the tool room is located too far from where employees are working,” he said. “Most of the time, the issue isn’t that employees aren’t being productive, but that the jobsite’s configuration isn’t optimized.”
In May 2021, Triax released Spot-r Radius to enable proximity and contact tracing on the job site, a feature the company plans to roll out to its Spot-r Mesh platform in early 2022.
The Spot-r sensors last three to six months between charges. The gateways at the job site, which send data to the cloud, require external power but can run on solar power indefinitely, and the network extenders run on D-cell batteries for nine months at a time.
Currently, Spot-r only works in static environments, like an asphalt plant, but Triax hopes to make its solutions available to mobile work sites, like the paving train, in the future.