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SA Water is trialling wearable wristbands and biometric shirts that could revolutionise health and wellbeing within the Australian water industry. 

The organisation will provide smart wearable devices to 15 of its field-based staff through a collaborative pilot study with researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA). 

These devices include wristband sensors and smart shirts that will record physiological data whilst participants are working in the field. 

The smart wristbands will allow researchers to measure workers’ level of sleep deprivation as well their alertness, focus and mental health. Biometric smart shirts will record the same information as well as monitoring an individual’s cardiac and respiratory system, through sensors embedded in their textiles. 

Whilst wearing these items, SA Water staff will engage in a series of work activities such as long-distance driving and pipe maintenance to observe how their bodies react. 

UniSA will analyse all of the data obtained during these activities to identify new methods of early detection and intervention for staff safety. 

SA Water’s General Manager of People and Safety, Kylie Johnson, said these insights could have significant implications for the organisation’s workforce across the state.  

“With a vast water network, our people are often performing challenging physical tasks in a range of weather conditions and our trial will explore how technology can improve their health and wellbeing,” Ms Johnson said.

“Excitingly, the wearable devices provide the opportunity to capture mental and physical wellbeing insights we haven’t been able to in the past.

“All of these collective insights can lead to improved situational awareness and allow certain work activities to be altered, postponed or optimised, creating better safety outcomes for our people.”

Once it has examined the data, UniSA will determine whether each device should be adopted permanently and which of SA Water’s teams would benefit the most from using them. 

Professor Jill Dorrian, UniSA’s lead researcher on the project, said the study’s findings could set a new standard for safety practices across a range of industries. 

“Our research continues to find that issues such as fatigue and sleep are prevalent across industries and can often increase the risk of workplace incidents, but our trial could open the door for the use of innovative technologies that support an even more proactive approach to safety and wellbeing,” Professor Dorrian said.

“Literature from researchers overseas demonstrates the use of wearable devices can increase employee satisfaction, while providing early detection and intervention for improved decision-making around how physical tasks are performed or managing individual workload to avoid burnout.”

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