In the U.S., Snickers is a Mars candy bar with annual sales topping $2 billion worldwide. In Sweden and much of Europe, “Snickers” connotes workwear designed for comfort, functionality, and safety. Snickers Workwear, part of the Hultafors Group, manufactures work clothing and accessories that protect knees and hands, helps grip, and protects workers from extreme weather and more. Snickers clothing lines tout features such as body-mapped design, advanced knee protection, reinforcements in all the right places, and easy-to-access pockets.
Snickers Workwear’s latest efforts center on work trousers with built-in sensors that send relevant health and safety data to workers and to the companies they work for. The company recently launched a test project tracking 100 craftspeople in five countries. Company designers mounted a wearable device in a special-purpose pocket on the worker’s pants. Based on the assumption that workers already carry a smartphone, the device transmits data to the smartphones about temperature, noise level, and knee impact on the job. The data gathered from the test project will feed the development of advanced workwear that also includes sensors.
According to designers on the workwear wearables team, Snickers and most workers had assumed workers were aware of workplace health and safety issues and acted accordingly to protect themselves. It turned out, however, the reality was radically different. Workers often weren’t aware of safety and health factors. Many who were aware had an “It won’t happen to me,” attitude. They often considered safety measures impractical in the world of work. Snickers Workwear hopes to turn around worker attitudes and practice. Examples of how smart work clothing could help would be informing workers when noise levels were high enough to be damaging, when they needed knee protection, or when the weather called for a clothing modification. Supervisors and company health officials would also be able to analyze the data to be sure that safety and health practices were followed. On the one hand, workplace wearables are a way to keep track of workers. If workers aren’t following health and safety guidance, such oversight could help save lives and reduce injuries.