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The monitor vibrates when a person gets too close

Wrist monitor alerts workers if social distancing rules have been broken

Image credit: Reactec/PA

A Scottish tech firm has repurposed a monitory tool that will help workers in sectors such as construction ensure they keep a safe distance from colleagues, ahead of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

The wrist-worn 'Safedistance' tool, developed by Edinburgh-based Reactec, has been reprogrammed to alert workers if they have broken the two-metre social distancing rules currently in place.

Safedistance was previously used to help guard against construction staff who use power tools such as drills from contracting the condition known as ‘Vibration White Finger’.

Using Bluetooth, the monitor can now track if workers get any closer than two metres from each other. If they do, the monitor vibrates to alert both wearers that social distancing rules have been broken.

“Social distancing will clearly be with us for some time and it’s vital that when people get back to work they can do so safely,” said Jacqui McLaughlin, chief executive of Reactec. “Our team has moved quickly to repurpose our technology to help businesses to ensure that their teams are working safely.”

The company said it had developed the system in a record time of just 15 days as a direct response to the Covid-19 crisis and the introduction of social distancing protocols by the Scottish and UK Governments.

“Reactec is already dedicated to helping reduce the damage to workers’ health from exposure to vibration, so developing our technology to include social distancing was a logical next step in response to Covid-19,” McLaughlin added. “We want to play our part in getting everyone back to work safely and with confidence.”

The Safedistance system is being trialled by firms working in the construction and rail sectors amid expectations that social distancing protocols may have to be followed long after lockdown measures are eased. More than 45,000 of the hand-arm vibration (HAV) monitors are already used by companies across the UK, with the software now being upgraded free of charge.

One of the companies currently trialling the tool is civil engineering group Keltbray, which had already been using Reactec's HAVwear power tool-guarding product.

“When Reactec approached us to trial the new social distance functionality, we already had confidence in the product. Keltbray is encouraged by this new offering,” said Paul Deacy, managing director of demolition and civil engineering. “This could truly assist us in managing social distancing across our projects.”

Scottish Parliament trade, investment and innovation minister Ivan McKee said: “In response to this pandemic, companies right across Scotland have been diversifying production lines, increasing capacity or exploring new distribution routes to help deliver what is needed, when it’s needed.

“Technology is going to play a crucial role in helping us overcome the long-term challenges presented by Covid-19, so it is great to see innovative, dynamic companies repurposing existing technology to help us protect workers from potential exposure in the future.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised on Sunday (10 April) after encouraging people employed in sectors such as construction in England to return to work before the Government had provided detailed, workable guidance on how this could be achieved safely.

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