The song ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’ by The Police was not written for this era of COVID-19, but it certainly applies to employees as they start returning to work. Employers are now racing to introduce safety methods and even use technology to meet social distancing standards. Which executives of a Fortune 100 company will be in charge of Social Distancing? Is the creation of a Chief Contact Officer in order? Whatever the executive’s title, they are in an immediate decision-making mode.  

Could writing a new paper rulebook be the best approach with mandatory training classes? Or can existing technology that offers real-time communications about employee distancing be deployed? Asset tracking tech has been utilized for decades, although it is best-known for tracking assets throughout a factory or warehouse and not for sensing when people come into close contact with each other. Imagine the need for real-time monitoring of the proximity of groups of employees arriving at the parking lot entrance, through a revolving entrance gate, elevator, and into the assembly line and break room. The technology could in real-time alert employees when they come too close to each other; an ‘early warning’ system to create more physical distance.

The proven reliability of a technology is critical. Executives should look at current solutions that have been used to monitor physical assets in a new way today, applying them to protect their most critical assets – their employees. 

A safety distance sensor unobtrusively integrated into a safety vest, ID badge, helmet or wristband provides a gentle reminder to employees to keep their distance from others in accordance with new workplace regulations on social distancing. When co-workers get too close, the small wearable safety distance sensor emits a subtle signal via an audible alert, vibration or LED display. An encounter event message is sent securely to a server that records the unique identifier of the devices in proximity with one another.

Safety distance solutions provide three key features – proximity sensing, encounter logging and hotspot detection. Sensors have the ability to detect and instantly generate an alert when two or more employees are within six feet of each other so they can take corrective action and step back. Each encounter is recorded in a database that logs the unique identifier of the sensor devices. If an employee were to later test positive for a viral infection, the log of that individual’s contact with other employees over the previous two-week period could then be pulled as a contact tracing report. Hotspots where employees are clustered too closely together can be identified from encounter location data, allowing firms to make spatial and process adjustments.

As COVID-19 social distancing becomes a new corporate reality, companies must prepare for it in the same manner that they prepare for OSHA regulations – understanding that the safety of their employees is of paramount importance. As with any business obstacle, those that prepare for it early on will have an advantage over their competition, all the while safeguarding their most valuable asset – their workers. This simple, inexpensive technology will give employees the autonomy and control of knowing when to step back from contacts to protect their health while on the job.