New research on wearable technology in high-risk work environments to help make workers safer has been given a million dollar funding boost.

The government has awarded the grant to Dr Judy Bowen and her team at the University of Waikato.

There has been a boom in fitness and personal trackers as well as smartwatches that gather personal metrics such as heart-rate, activity levels and hydration levels. Add in environmental factors such as temperature and location, and you may be able to support worker safety by identifying levels of fatigue or unsafe work conditions.

But Judy says there is little scientific evidence to show that the proposed technology can be used in this way in practice.


She has already done several years of research with forestry workers — a sector in which 30 workers have been killed on the job since 2013.

Judy says it is know that heart rate variability can be a good indicator of fatigue, but wrist based devices aren't very accurate and chest straps are uncomfortable to work in.

"We're looking at putting that technology into a compression shirt," she says.

"Then we'll see what other kinds of other sensors we can put in there."