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Written by
on 11 June 2018


Although it has existed for years, biometrics technology has been restricted to projects requiring the highest levels of security. This has mainly been down to cost – projects like the biometric passport cost tens of millions of pounds.

As biometrics have matured, the costs have fallen dramatically. In fact, most new smartphones come with some of the biometric authentications as standard. Apple’s TouchID fingerprint scanner or FaceID facial recognition system show just how small, effective and practical these technologies are.

Biometrics in the workplace

As the applications for biometrics become clearer, some firms are installing them on-site. Using a fingerprint scanner to clock-in and out does away with the age-old problem of lost cards for instance; so long as the worker has their thumb, they are able to register their attendance.

As an added bonus, it is much, much harder to fool the system – colleagues cannot clock-in for each other for instance.

The future – helping to improve site safety

Clock-in data is not just a payroll tool. Using the information generated you can identify employees who are working too many hours – or those who are not taking their statutory breaks for instance. Spotting these trends – and acting on them – will ensure that legal standards are being upheld, helping to raise standards on site.

Because biometric markers are unique – fingerprints and retinal blood vessels are completely individual – they may also be used in lieu of signatures. If site rules change, they can be displayed on the clock-in console. The worker can then be prompted to register their acceptance of these changes using their unique biometric data – much easier than trying to chase down paperwork, forms and signatures on a construction site.

Even further ahead

As biometrics technologies continue to improve, technologies like retina scanning will offer much more than time and attendance tracking. Google’s health division, Verily Life Sciences, has been in trials to diagnose serious medical conditions using retinal scans. An algorithm has been developed, capable of predicting patients who will go on to develop cardiovascular disease with a 70% accuracy rate.

Producing and analysing a retinal scan is much quicker than a traditional blood test, and can be administered almost anywhere. Faster, cheaper and just as accurate as a blood test, retinal scanning is set to become an important diagnostic technique.

It may be that in future, employees clocking in using a retinal scan will also receive a quick health check in the process. They get early warning of potential health problems, and the employer decides whether the person presents a significant risk should they be admitted on site.

Working in the here and now

Basic biometric systems already exist for time and attendance, but uptake remains limited. Most construction firms still rely on paper-based systems to track training, sickness and attendance – at least on site. How your business records this information is not as important as actually capturing it and using it.

To learn more about capturing key health and safety information – and using it to improve health and safety – please get in touch.

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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