08 July 2022

SA Water staff from the Kadina Depot who will be monitored by UniSA researchers.

An innovative safety initiative is breaking new ground in the Australian water industry, with 15 of SA Water’s field-based staff donning a range of smart wearable devices to explore how new technology can lead to greater health and wellbeing outcomes.

Researchers from the University of South Australia have teamed up with SA Water to pilot the new study, which will see them analyse physiological data captured in the field and identify opportunities for early detection and intervention of potential safety issues.

Wristband sensors and smart shirts are among the devices now being tested by staff from SA Water’s Kadina Depot, and Trade Waste and water sampling teams.

SA Water’s General Manager of People and Safety Kylie Johnson said the safety initiative could have broad application across its state-wide workforce.

“With a vast water network, our people are often performing challenging physical tasks in a range of weather conditions and our trial will explore how technology can improve their health and wellbeing,” Ms Johnson says.

“Working together with the University of South Australia, our people will undertake specific work activities, such as driving prolonged distances and pipe maintenance to explore how their bodies respond, measure their vital signs and monitor the effect of heat, fatigue and sleep. 

“Excitingly, the wearable devices provide the opportunity to capture mental and physical wellbeing insights we haven’t been able to in the past.

“For example, the wristband sensors our Kadina team are wearing can quantify sleep deprivation and the resulting effect on alertness, focus and mental health.

“Biometric smart shirts with sensors embedded in the textiles monitor the cardiac and respiratory system to capture greater knowledge about physical strain.

“All of these collective insights can lead to improved situational awareness and allow certain work activities to be altered, postponed or optimised, creating better safety outcomes for our people.

“The idea to trial these devices was conceived by our own people, who over the years have seen the success of proactive measures in preventing harm during some of their daily tasks.”

The data and learnings captured by the University of South Australia will be used by SA Water to assess the feasibility of adopting each device and help the utility understand which teams could gain value from theiruse on an ongoing basis.

The project’s lead, UniSA Research Professor Jill Dorrian – an expert in occupational safety, fatigue and sleep – said findings from the study could set a new precedent for proactive safety practices.  

“Our research continues to find that issues such as fatigue and sleep are prevalent across industries and can often increase the risk of workplace incidents, but our trial could open the door for the use of innovative technologies that support an even more proactive approach to safety and wellbeing,” Prof Dorrian said.

“Literature from researchers overseas demonstrates the use of wearable devices can increase employee satisfaction, while providing early detection and intervention for improved decision-making around how physical tasks are performed or managing individual workload to avoid burnout.  

“We’re delighted to partner on this project with SA Water, who have shown a genuine emphasis on safety and improving their people’s wellbeing.”


Media contact: Candy Gibson M: +61434 605 142 E: candy.gibson@unisa.edu.au

SA Water Media: +61 8 7424 2477

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