Last year, the U.S. labor shortage reached epic levels, with an estimated 10.7 million unfilled jobs. The parcel delivery sector is feeling the labor crunch amidst a slew of pandemic-led challenges that are testing the capacity of carriers, regardless of size. In recent months, UPS increased wages to attract workers in tight labor markets. And FedEx reported that labor shortages cost the company $450 million in its most recent quarter.
While benefits like higher pay might help in recruiting drivers and package handlers, keeping workers on the job is key to solving the labor shortage problem. Experts say more must be done beyond just increasing pay to retain workers, including investing in safety and technology in the workplace.
A Spotlight on Safety & Well Being
Over the past two years, the pandemic has not only driven the strained labor market, it’s also brought workplace safety and wellness to the front and center. A 2020 Gartner survey of HR executives found that 94% of companies made significant investments in their well being programs, with 50% increasing support for physical well being. And in a recent trends article, The Harvard Business Review predicts that “wellness” will become the newest metric companies use to understand their employees in 2022.
Employees are more concerned with on-the-job safety than ever, especially those on the frontlines of a safety-critical industry like last-mile delivery. To stay competitive, carriers must step up efforts to address worker well being and safety - and wearable tech offers an effective solution.
A smart wearable device can reduce the incidence of workplace injuries by automatically detecting unsafe postures and providing workers with real time feedback whenever a high-risk motion occurs. Over time, workers can use this feedback to improve their biomechanics, resulting in fewer injuries and improved well being. Data is collected and aggregated across a workforce for review and analysis by safety managers who can make targeted changes to workplace processes that can help to reduce injury risk further.
ATI Worksite Solutions, a national team of onsite healthcare professionals who specialize in injury prevention, ergonomic evaluation, and safety consulting in the workplace, partners with many clients to assist them in taking advantage of the real time data provided with ergonomic wearable technologies. Industry Director Jim Allivato says, ”As injury prevention providers, we can quickly identify employees working in high risk postures and intervene early before injury occurs.”
Attract & Keep Workers with Safety Wearables
Making injury prevention and physical well being a top priority in a labor-intensive workplace helps companies keep valuable employees on the job and productive. With employees being more discerning about where they choose to work, and why, a safety technology program communicates that a company cares about their workers’ wellness.
Here are four ways wearable tech can help attract and retain workers, and improve performance:
1. Reduced injuries – A worker is more likely to work for and stay at a company that actively works to prevent needless injuries that put their body and their livelihood at risk. Safety tech has been proven to reduce the frequency of workplace injuries by as much as 60%.
2. Fewer lost work days – When an employee is equipped with safety tech that reduces injuries and helps them feel better while doing their job, they experience less time away from work. Safety tech can reduce lost work days over 70%.
In the parcel delivery space, the leading driver of lost time injury claims for employees is directly related to improper lifting resulting in back and shoulder strains. According to Chuck Holdren, President & CEO of SAGE Program Underwriters, “The ability to deploy a wearable device proven to reduce back claims and educate employees on proper lifting techniques is a game changer. The average time an employee is not able to drive with a back claim is three weeks. That’s a serious impact to a carrier's bottom line that can be greatly reduced by utilizing a wearable.”
3. Increased productivity - Workers who experience less soreness and fewer injuries can be more productive on the job. Safety tech can improve bad biomechanics over the long term, allowing employees to both feel better and perform better.
4. Enhanced loyalty– An employee who can operate freely in their role without pain and worry of injury is typically a happier employee who feels successful in their job, and more willing to remain at it.
Overall, deploying safety tech reflects a company’s investment in its workers and their well being. And employees who know their employer cares about their safety and wellness are more likely to remain at an organization. Wearable tech is more accessible today than ever - it’s even included for free with an innovative workers’ compensation policy that offers a technology-driven, proactive approach to worker safety.
A Competitive Edge
As the parcel delivery industry continues to adapt to constant change, from record volume to cascading supply chain congestion to the ongoing labor shortage, leveraging connected technology, like safety wearables, can help carriers develop resilience and hold a competitive edge. Wearable tech empowers employers to attract new employees, retain their valuable workforce and strengthen their business through injury prevention, enhanced productivity and a culture that prioritizes worker safety and well being.
Gerritt Graham is EVP of Growth Strategy for Kinetic Insurance, a partnership between Kinetic, Inc., and Nationwide, that provides innovative insurtech offerings that lower costs by equipping workers with wearable technology. He may be reached at email@example.com.