Amey announces waste worker safety pilots using ‘smart vests’ and ‘body cams’

New schemes focusing on the stress, fatigue and abuse suffered by waste collection employees are being trialled by services firm Amey across its waste operations.

Amey announces waste worker safety pilots using ‘smart vests’ and ‘body cams’

The company, which recently invested £12.5 million in a ‘safety-equipped’ environmental services vehicle fleet, announced two new pilot schemes last week (3 March), designed to track and improve the wellbeing and safety of its waste service employees. The trials have been developed after Amey recognised that stress, fatigue and abuse are some of the most significant challenges faced by its staff..

Smart vests

The first trial scheme, operating across Amey’s Wolverhampton waste collection services, saw employees wearing ‘smart’ vests to monitor their heart rate, respiration, pace, posture and stress levels, all factors that help indicate their wellbeing.

The vests were used to determine which tasks cause the most stress to employees and how this can be handled in the future.

In total, 28 staff across several roles volunteered for the pilot, which saw them wearing shirts designed with a ‘smart box’ to record physiological data across 10 working days. At the end of each day, the data was downloaded and the events of the day were discussed to help explain the results. The data from the ‘smart box’ enabled those running the project to track the health of the volunteers and their physical activity levels.

Areas of stress identified by the project included reversing vehicles, working on uneven ground and in fast moving traffic. As a result of the pilots, the company has said it is looking at the specifications of its vehicles to include cameras and on-board systems to minimise stress when reversing, and is encouraging teams to report areas of uneven ground to the local council.

Amey says that results from the scheme also showed good overall health levels among volunteers, and, to build on this, has stated that it will be introducing a healthy eating and lifestyle campaign for its employees.

The project is run by Amey’s parent company Ferrovial Services’ Centre of Excellence for Cities and is sponsored by Ferrovial Innovation and Processes. 

Mark Saunders, UK Projects Director of Ferrovial Services’ Centre of Excellence for Cities, said: “The results have given us great confidence that the delivery of environmental services contributes to a positive active lifestyle, although some areas of concern were also highlighted, which are now being addressed.

“The teams and management were very receptive to trying out this technology. Without that, this project could not have been a success. I would like to thank them again for allowing us this opportunity to understand the dynamics of their work in greater detail.”

Body cameras

The second pilot, taking place at Amey’s household waste recycling centre (HWRC) in Northamptonshire, involves equipping teams with body cameras to record any abusive behaviour that they may encounter from the public with the aim of discouraging such abuse.

Amey reported that abuse suffered by its HWRC staff had increased by 26 per cent in the past year, with the majority of threats and, in some cases, physical abuse from the public coming in response to being told they cannot leave certain waste items. 

The body cameras, worn over employees’ protective clothing, provide both visual and audio recordings. Once activated, the cameras store the previous 30 seconds of footage. The footage can then be submitted to the police for further investigation.

Amey’s Managing Director for Environmental Services Rob Edmondson said: “The safety of our employees is our top priority, which is why we’re looking at how we can change behaviours and protect our workforce from abuse. The main aim of this trial is to try and prevent incidents in the first place.

“By knowing they are on camera, we believe customers will think twice about their behaviour. Already, we’ve seen some success, with employees reporting they feel safer and customers being less aggressive when they become aware of the camera.”

Safety is a key issue for waste service staff. Last year, Biffa released a video highlighting the problem of drivers mounting pavements to get around waste vehicles, endangering staff and other members of the public. Also, in 2012, the BBC’s The One Show reported on the increasing attacks on waste operatives

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