“About smart clothing, occupational health, and GDPR” – a conversation with the representative of the labor union Metall in the Boliden area.

Wavr Tech had the opportunity to have a conversation with Magnus Westerlund, occupational health worker and representative of the labor union Metall in the Boliden area.

What does “working with occupational health in a mine” mean?

— Ensuring that no one gets injured or exposed to hazardous conditions.

What are the biggest challenges for Boliden regarding occupational health in the next five years, in your opinion?

— Reducing harmful exposures present in our environment. One of the most important areas is vibrations, both whole-body and hand-arm vibrations. Vibrations are a risk area where we could improve our work.

You emphasize the importance of knowledge in occupational health development?

— Yes, there is a lack of that knowledge, it’s difficult to recruit people with occupational health expertise, and those who are recruited and still want to work in the field need continuous further education.

How can both workers and employers derive maximum benefit and value from smart connected garments while ensuring compliance with GDPR and privacy legislation?

— It doesn’t have to be difficult. The purpose of the data, why it is collected, and how it will be used are quite basic: the data is meant to ensure compliance with legal requirements.Monthly reports could be generated and pushed out to supervisors, completely anonymized at the group level, showing exposure doses, loads, etc. If there are many yellow and red exposures in the statistics, the supervisor could involve the occupational health and safety  (HSE) representatives. This would serve as a heads-up, and if the supervisor wants more information, someone from the occupational health side could investigate further using tools like the Zentnl Portal’s daily reports or discuss it during the weekly meeting.

If I am a supervisor and see that someone has a lot of yellow and red, what should I do?

— In a team meeting, you can ask, “We had some red values last week, did something change in our work?” Someone in the team might say, “Yes, we moved some machinery, and it requires bending and twisting the body in a certain way all the time.” Then, you can take it from there.

Can anything be done about it in the future?

— You could also go directly to a miner, for example, as a supervisor, if you think you know who it is – it’s not a big deal – “Hi, I see that your shirt showed a deteriorated trend last month, did you move machinery or what did you do to have so many red markings?”

If I, as the wearer of the shirt, have a lot of yellow and red, what should I do? Should I talk to the supervisor or what?

— It’s up to the individual if they want to discuss it or not, it’s their data. The red line that triggers contact from the management side is, for example, when we see a group with a lot of red values in one measurement point and we implement a risk-reducing measure, but the red values persist. If over time, it consistently lands on a specific individual, it’s no longer about the group; we have to address it, investigate, sit down, and look at the data. According to the law, we have an obligation to act. Someone is working in a way that will lead to wear and injury. Who needs help?

Who could be responsible for the process of analyzing exposure statistics, implementing risk-reducing measures, and follow-up in an organization?

The occupational health and safety representative identifies the problem, and we need to take action, measure, and identify risks. They then make proposals to the occupational health coordinator (HSE), who decides, in consultation with the management team, whether measures should be taken. Afterwards, the HSE representative will measure again after a certain period. With this Zentnl shirt that you have, if it’s used voluntarily all the time, you can quickly see if changes have had any effect. Instead of spending full days planning and conducting measurements, which would create a lot of overtime for the occupational health and safety representatives, you can see the results easily. As an occupational health and safety representative, you are constantly busy and don’t have scheduled time for such tasks.

What types of cost savings do you think a functional system with smart clothing like Zentnl would contribute to if used continuously?

If Zentnl were used all the time, and the data obtained were used for risk reduction and addressing risk factors, it’s hard to grasp the potential cost savings. For example, a diamond driller working with incorrect upper body angles is something we couldn’t see before. The information could save backs, shoulders, prevent herniated discs, and long-term sick leave. Possible cost savings could be seen in HR, rehabilitation groups, and rehabilitation cases. We’re talking about enormous amounts.

What does transparency mean to you?

It’s a complex question, but it means clarity, open dialogue with the employer, not hiding anything.

What does it mean to shift from reactive to proactive occupational health work?

It means working preventively, not just extinguishing fires.

Thank you Magnus for allowing us to ask these questions and for your insightful answers.