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When Does Tracking Workers Make Sense?

The right system can provide safety, privacy and security, and serve the interests of both a company and its employees.
By John Shoemaker
Oct 05, 2014

Why would any company want to track its employees? How does it work? Why do it?

What about Big Brother? What are the limits? Who should be tracked? Would the union support it? Is it a covert management strategy?

A lot of concerns and questions abound when talking about monitoring personnel in the workplace. However, there are many situations for which it is not only important to have a tracking system, but also in the best interests of both workers and the company.

Let's answer some common questions about employee tracking.

When do you track workers?
If workplace operations involve any possibly dangerous tasks or materials that can potentially harm employees, it makes sense to provide for staff members' safety, for the sake of the company, the workers and their families. If an "event" occurs, safety officers need to be able to immediately identify who is safe and who is not, and to provide directions to guide everyone to safe havens and muster stations.

Clearly, this is true for many operations in the oil, gas, tunneling and mining industries. This seems obvious—and yet, many facilities currently do not have an effective system in place to track personnel in the case of emergencies. Worse, it is true that many still use pencil, paper and a clipboard or a magnetic board to figure out who is onsite. Such manual systems are inaccurate, untimely and unreliable—especially during the "fog" of an emergency.

One region has mandated the use of RFID tags to track workers on offshore oil rigs in the North Sea. After a major accident at sea, the Scandinavian countries got together to pass regulations to protect employees. Knowing who is where during an emergency is something that should not be compromised when lives are at stake. Consequently, the North Sea oil industry is now among the world's safest.

We have examples of tragic events occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, for which crucial minutes, hours and even days passed during which the companies had no idea who was affected, who was safe or even who was impacted.

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