big brother is watchingVendors of exposure and training monitoring and personnel location and PPE tracking software despise the name Big Brother to describe their expanding arsenal of analytics. But that’s how many employees look at what they consider an invasion of privacy.

Employers using these systems look at them as efficiency improvements and injury reduction tools. What’s evident from Safety 2013 is that it is easier than ever to know more about employee’s safety practices than ever.

You can know if an employee is trying to use PPE he or she is not authorized to use. You can know how many pairs of safety glasses an employee uses each week. You can know if an employee is driving a delivery van more than 7 miles above the speed limit on a residential street. Or if the driver is too aggressive in shifting lanes on an interstate, and working the brakes too hard. Coming soon will be devices to reduce distracted driving by relaying in real-time data if an employee is using their cell phone while driving, or text messaging.

You can now quickly look up the training test scores of any employee, or overall group scores for a particular topic. Perhaps an employee involved in a near miss, which can be instantly reported and reviewed now, scored low on a particular safety practice that put him at risk, and needs additional attention. Perhaps a spate of injuries in one department shows that that department need more training and coaching in a safety topic tied to those injuries.

Trying to locate an employee? You can track him or her down via the RFID tags sewn into their protective clothing.

As these systems become more prevalent, care must be given in how they are rolled out to the workforce to avoid pushback. One company launched a driver behavior program by sending personal letters to each driver’s home. The message: We are doing this for your safety, for your family’s security in knowing that we are doing all we can to keep you safe. This was followed up by training at the worksite.

The last thing you want to do is spring one of these programs on employees without warning. It’s like when companies first issued “no smoking” policies. Don’t ambush your employees. They deserve more respect than that. Give them lead time before the program begins. Communicate early and often. Allow them the opportunity for feedback, to get their complaints off their chests. Perhaps you’ll end up modifying your program; maybe not. But be empathic to the employees you are dictating to if you want better buy in.