Every day, we incautiously entrust strangers with our lives. Whether it’s the driver that takes us home on a Friday night, the pilot that brings us home for Christmas or even the security team at the airport. Indeed, it’s rather difficult to assess whether these people are in a good physical state; at the very least, an intoxicated computer programmer will compromise the integrity of some private information. At the most, a baggage scanner operator will lack the focus to notice a dangerous weapon, leading to a potential hijacking and the deaths of hundreds of passengers.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies conducted a survey in 2015, where they found that 33% of employees admitted to being at work with a hangover from the night before, which they accepted, impacted directly on their own productivity and safety. That’s a considerable number of public transport drivers, heavy equipment operators, security guards and aircraft crew that are responsible for, but not fit for handling, the lives of themselves and the people around them.
Of course, companies are required by law to carry out a pre-shift health assessment for workers of high-risk occupations, such as those aforementioned. However, the cohort of these checks are performed manually; an approach lined with disadvantages.
Firstly, the number of medical staff needs to be proportional to the number of workers that are subject to the examination. It wouldn’t be effective for a single medical professional to check the physical health of hundreds of staff every day, and would certainly impact on working hours. Secondly, there’s no guarantee that these doctors are fit for service themselves, and not subject to trickery or bribery. Lastly, the manual approach is subject to human error. As such, doctors can make mistakes.
Now, when we observe the automated approach, it is clear that it remedies all of these issues discussed. A reduction in medical personnel can be achieved without compromising on time, while the results are void of human error. Of course, we shall endeavour to examine some of the potential issues related to automation, but for now, let us examine the technology that enables this automated approach.
The Electronic Health Check-up System (henceforth referred to as the EHCS) is an automated system that delivers the verdict on whether a worker is physically fit to undertake his working duties. Indeed, only the workers who pass the check-up with no medical alerts will be allowed into the working environment.
The EHCS has a three-level structure: at the client level, there is a medical terminal station, connected to a web interface at the doctor’s workstation; at the server level, an Apache web server is utilised with PHP5 and PHP modules; at the database level, MySQL is used. This three-level structure enables all of the clients within the system to interact with one another via the server. It is important to note that the system is able to provide a fantastic array of services in addition to its primal function of evaluating whether or not an employee is physically fit for the working environment. For example, it records the result of the check-up in an electronic health check-up log; it prints out the necessary documentation, such as a duty slip or a medical referral, upon receipt of the employee’s electronic signature; it provides access to the working area depending on the outcome of the medical report, for example, via turnstile.
Before we move onto the potential drawbacks of this kind of automation, it would be interesting to examine the procedure of the EHCS. The procedure starts with an empty medical terminal, that an employee is encouraged to approach. He or she is then identified by holding up an identity card to the camera. The server then sends a health check-up plan to the terminal, which is then to be confirmed by the employee; it is important that they are eligible for this check according to the company’s internal regulations. Once this has been completed, the program takes the employee through various medical tests that are outlined in the plan. These usually include an alcohol test, blood pressure measurements, pupil analyses and temperature readings. At the end of the test, the employee provides an e-signature to confirm his or her identity. The gathered data is finally sent to the on-duty medical officer, who then is able to approve or reject the work permit based on the result of the examination.
The final step of the process aforementioned is crucial; the EHCS does not over-automate the process, which subsequently mitigates most of the disadvantages of automation. Despite this, there were some disadvantages which are worth mentioning.
Because this is a ‘man versus machine’ scenario, one can imagine how workers would attempt to circumnavigate the machine’s intelligence. In fact, workers tried to trick the machine in order to pass the breathalyzer test; many tried different breathing techniques that would go unnoticed by the machine. In addition, employees under pupil examination tried to pass the test by moving their eyes quickly from left to right, or by blinking very quickly. There were also cases where sober employees would take the test, using the ID cards of their intoxicated colleagues, so that their colleagues wouldn’t be sent home.
However, these early challenges meant that over time, the hardware and software systems were eventually debugged and reworked. The system now, actually, has a very high level of resistance to interference. The implemented facial recognition module also means that you cannot take the test for somebody else.
Overall, the EHCS is certainly an effective, reliable and cost-efficient method for ensuring that employees are physically fit for the working environment. Automation is a subject that will always be contentious due to its drawbacks, but the use of this technology, and its application across the board, will hopefully not only reduce the number of people who are intoxicated within the workplace, but should also serve as a deterrent to alcoholism, subsequently improving micro-economic productivity.
Tommy Karyukin is Founder of EDISON Software Development Centre, a custom software development company headquartered in Moscow, Russia.
He is an accomplished architect, developer and an expert in healthcare software development.
Tommy is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the company’s technology services, a thought leader in transparent and clear approach to custom software development. His initiatives provide customers with opportunities of automated checkups and top notch technology solutions.
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