Waste collection workers trial wearable technology at Wolverhampton site

A couple of innovative pilot schemes aimed at improving employee safety and wellbeing are being trialed by Amey.
One of these uses the latest ‘wearable’ technology to monitor the health and wellbeing of waste collection teams; the other equips employees at a Recycling Centre with ‘bodycams’ that aim to discourage abusive behaviour from the public.

Monitoring things like heart rate, respiration and stress levels.

In the first project, 28 volunteers from Amey’s waste collection services in Wolverhampton have been wearing ‘smart’ vests that monitor their heart rate, respiration, pace, posture and stress levels. The aim of this project, run by Ferrovial Services’ Centre of Excellence for Cities and sponsored by Ferrovial Innovation and Processes, has been to understand how the human body copes during different tasks in the working day.

Volunteers, who came from a range of roles, wore specially designed t-shirts with a ‘smart box’ to capture physiological data, for an average of 10 workdays each. At the end of each shift, the data was downloaded and a discussion held to understand if there were any events that could explain any fluctuation in the data exhibited. A detailed picture was built up of the health of each employee and their level of physical activity each day. This has highlighted some positive aspects of their work, says Amey, including the fact that all crew who took part in the study performed within acceptable cardiac activity levels.

The results have given us great confidence that the delivery of environmental services contributes to a positive active lifestyle…

There were, however, some areas of stress – for instance, when reversing a vehicle, working on uneven ground or in fast-moving traffic. “We are now reviewing the specifications of waste collection vehicles to include cameras and on-board systems to minimise the stress associated with reversing and encouraging crews to report where they have encountered uneven ground to the council using the City Council App,” said the firm. A healthy eating and lifestyle campaign directed at employees is also now under way.

The Bodycam addresses a worrying rise in verbal abuse and assault against employees at Amey’s household waste recovery centres.

Mark Saunders, UK Projects Director of Ferrovial Services’ Centre of Excellence for Cities, said: “The results have given us great confidence that the delivery of environmental services contributes to a positive active lifestyle, although some areas of concern were also highlighted, which are now being addressed. The teams and management were very receptive to trying out this technology. Without that, this project could not have been a success. I would like to thank them again for allowing us this opportunity to understand the dynamics of their work in greater detail.”

The second trial, which is under way at Amey’s Household Waste Recycling Centre in Northamptonshire, is taking place in response to a worrying rise in verbal abuse against employees – in the past year, a 26% increase in abuse and threats of violence at Amey’s HWRCs. “The majority of these threats arise when people are told they cannot leave certain types or amounts of waste, and occasionally this even leads to our employees being assaulted”, said Amey.
“We are now trialling body camera technology that is attached over our employees’ personal protective equipment (PPE). This provides clear video footage of the area in front of the employee, including audio recording. When activated by the wearer, it stores the previous 30 seconds ensuring any incidents are captured, including the events immediately prior to activation. Footage can be submitted to the police for further investigation and action if needed.”