May 4, 2021
By Wendy Johnson, Vice President, Supply Chain Environmental Health and Safety
Three years ago, we invested in a leading-edge safety wearable technology program and began deploying it at a Walmart grocery distribution center, DC 7016, in Gordonsville, Virginia.
Here are some of the results and impacts we’ve seen to date.
Setting the Stakes
Every day, every shift, our associates work tirelessly to provide essential items to millions of people worldwide. Their commitment to the customer is unwavering. Our commitment to their safety is the same.
“Safety is the one thing that our associates take home with them at the end of the day,” Curtis Wills, Gordonsville’s Assistant General Manager, said. “If they injure themselves, they have to take that home with them to their family.”
Turning to Tech
As part of our focus on associate safety, we are always looking for innovative technology to make the job easier and more efficient.
In 2018, we began pursuing a more data-centric approach to associate safety. We looked at a lot of options and landed on StrongArm Technologies and their FUSE Risk Management Platform. Their safety wearables were easy to integrate into our existing routine across multiple job functions. The data provided was intuitive and actionable, and they clearly cared about worker safety as much as we did.
From the beginning, we were transparent with associates about the goal behind deploying FUSE, a small sensor worn between their shoulder blades they’d soon forget was even there. We wanted them to understand what the device is measuring (and what it’s not), why we're deploying it and how it works. Once they understood that it's a tool for their benefit, the adoption happened quickly.
Within the first year of deploying FUSE, targeted, ergonomic-related injuries decreased by nearly 65% across participating associates.
I train for a living, so I need to practice what I preach. I always make sure I’m lifting as if I had a FUSE on, even if I don’t. It definitely makes me think before I lift anything.
Furthermore, we saw an additional year-over-year targeted injury reduction of 27% in year two, and 16% in year three. Since 2018, we’ve launched across 18-buildings and 6,000 associates, and additional program growth is underway.
Building a Benchmark
Associates wearing the FUSE sensors have a safety score as a benchmark. The higher they score from 0-100 every shift, the safer they’d been.
“If you look at the safety data from where we started to where we are now, we’re leaps and bounds better in terms of buy-in and overall safety culture in our building,” dry ship area manager Lee White said.
Just as importantly, the data provides management with information to heap praise on those associates who are safety leaders day in and day out.
“For me, the recognition piece is a big win,” said AGM Wills. “Folks deserve to know when they’re doing a good job, as so many of them are on a daily basis.”
Going forward, we will continue to invest in the best, most leading-edge technology available. As always, that begins and ends with safety.
“The future of workplace safety at Walmart is giving the power to the associates — engaging them, enabling them and empowering them to lead the safety program themselves,” added Wills. “Technology such as what StrongArm provides plays a major role in that.”
A safe work environment means every associate gets home safely every day. And there’s nothing more important than that.