Keeping construction safe through contact tracing cards

A contact tracing device, as small as a credit card, is changing the face of contact tracing in the essential industries operating safely through COVID-19. Contact Harald explains how its small solution can make a huge difference for construction sites.

Before 2020, contact tracing was a foreign concept to almost everyone except medical professionals. But as the COVID-19 pandemic disseminated across the globe, contact tracing has become a household term and is one of many ways to control the spread of the coronavirus.

With social distancing requirements in place, employment in all sectors across Australia changed. But a few essential industries have been permitted to continue working on-site during the pandemic, with construction being one of these.

Despite continued work, in many cases such as Victoria, construction sites have drastically reduced personnel to combat the spread of the virus. Victoria brought in tough restrictions for its Stage Four lockdown period and every construction site, while being subject to personnel reduction also had to implement COVID-Safe plans.

Business Victoria’s guidance for creating a COVID-Safe workplace includes keeping good records and creating workforce bubbles, so that if anyone declares COVID-19 symptoms, or becomes a confirmed case, contacts can be quickly and easily identified.

Health Technology company Contact Harald has created a solution for fast and effective contact tracing on work sites which pairs wearable proximity detecting cards with a contact tracing platform.

The solution was created by Contact Harald’s parent company Safedome, who designed a Bluetooth credit or debit type card for people’s wallets, the thinnest tracker in the world.

It was this idea that inspired the specially designed Contact Harald cards and tracing platform.

As a wearable device, no bigger than a staff identification card, the Contact Harald system can trace people on-site and log any situations where physical distancing is compromised for longer than two minutes.

Master Builders Australia guidelines for social distancing on construction sites state a distance of 1.5 metres should be implemented wherever possible. The guidelines suggest, where it is not possible to undertake a work task and maintain physical distancing, other control measures need to be implemented like minimising the number of worker-to-worker interactions or providing PPE.

Elissa Reid, Director of Health & Product at Contact Harald, says when the pandemic hit it became apparent that contact tracing was traditionally a manual task that could be significantly time consuming.

“Part of our methodology at Contact Harald is to make traditionally manual processes smarter. For construction when you have a site supervisor, in charge of health and safety, if there is a declaration of COVID-19 symptoms or a positive case on-site you might be looking at taking that supervisor off the front line for hours to help trace and notify close contacts,” she says.

To speed up the contact tracing process, the Contact Harald platform sees cards issued to everyone on site, with each worker registered to a card and any visitors given a card which is linked to their contact details. No personal information is stored on the cards.

“Contact Harald is essentially a logbook of who is on site at any given time. It replaces manual methods, such as matching up work plans and rosters, for contact tracing. At the same time, it also provides an audit and quality measure to help ensure physical distancing guidelines are adhered to,” Reid says.

The system is an out of the box, contactless solution. On-boarding is performed over a Zoom meeting, the cards and tablet are sent to site pre-installed and any further technical support is completed over the phone or Zoom.

The cards use Bluetooth to establish proximity and if there is more than one card within a 1.5 metre radius for longer than two minutes, the Contact Harald system will record that as a proximity event. It will continue to log these events every two minutes until there is only one card in range.

This information stays logged on each card and companies can choose to upload the data, to their secure Contact Harald platform on a regular basis.

“In order to do a physical distancing quality check, the site supervisor can log into the Contact Harald database, and soon a browser version, and produce an activity report of all the registered cards. This will show any non-compliance with physical distancing guidelines,” Reid says.

Visitor log in capabilities have also been added to the Contact Harald suite. In practice this would see any contractor arriving at a work site issued with a Contact Harald card configured with a unique code. The name and either phone or email contact of the visitor is then uploaded to the database and an on-boarding text or email is sent to that person.

“The text or email would advise the visitor to contact the site if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms and on the other hand, the visitor’s contact details, are stored securely, are in case they are identified as a close contact through the system.”

The cards are made to be worn all day on site and it is recommended they are kept in the locker room at the end of each day. When a card is issued and switched on it will have a battery life of six to eight months before it needs replenishing, a flashing light will indicate when there is a month’s battery left.

“The battery is built in and sealed, and the device is configured to have the optimal range and proximity recording capabilities while being as thin as a credit card,” Reid says.

For visitors, the card will start working once a person has been logged in and when the card is handed back the system administrator will log the visitor out.

“Contact Harald is not a tracking device; the key output of the program is to capture proximity data. Our base product aims to deliver contact tracing in a privacy preserving, efficient and simple manner presenting one source of truth.”

The Contact Harald solution complies with Federal, State and local safety regulations and the technology complies with and in some cases exceeds international and national privacy regulations. Once the system is in the operation of the customer, privacy falls under their governance.

“Our biggest objective was to set us apart from shortfalls in manual and app-based offerings and deliver Gold Standard in terms of privacy and personal identifying information (PII) protection,” Reid says.

“By using Contact Harald’s faster tech-based contact tracing, workplace outbreaks can be contained quickly, close contacts tested and self-isolating awaiting results; resulting in avoiding a complete site shut down and also minimising further transmission in the community.”

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