Management

How fingerprints help Winvic make its sites safer

28 October 2018 | By Will Mann

Workers use a fingerprint reader to show they’ve read the site hazard board

Biometric readers are transforming Winvic’s approach to workforce management, with benefits to safety, security, competence and much more. Will Mann reports.

Biometrics are playing an increasing role in all our lives – most commonly when we activate a smartphone with fingerprint recognition – and this technology is now appearing on construction sites.

Winvic uses biometric sign-in across all its 35 live sites, after a trial on its Primark project in Northamptonshire which started four years ago. The firm worked with IT security specialist Biosite to introduce the technology. It is a significant investment in hardware and Winvic has spent £400,000 on the biometrics system this year, says health, safety, environment and quality director Ian Goodhead.

Each site has at least two turnstiles. Winvic’s giant East Midlands Gateway project, where the perimeter is 7.5km long and over 500 workers are on site, has six.

Fingerprint testing for drugs and alcohol

For the past year, Winvic has been working with another technology firm – diagnostics outfit SureScreen – for testing drugs and alcohol using fingerprint readers.

“In the past, the tests have used urine and saliva which are messy and long-winded,” says Ian Goodhead, Winvic’s health, safety, environment and quality director.

“SureScreen tests the sweat on the end of your finger and tests it for recreational drugs and alcohol. This allows us to screen workers for impairment and we have had to stop some from going on site.”

The turnstiles sit in a cabin and the Biosite software runs off a desktop computer. Workers are preregistered and assigned an ID number. When they arrive at site and use the fingerprint reader access control system, all their details are flagged up, allowing Winvic to check workers’ records. As well as recording site inductions, method statement briefings, time and attendance, the technology has helped the contractor identify competency issues.

“Card schemes like CSCS and PAL are linked to the system, and it will flag up if a worker’s card is out of date,” says Goodhead. “When a worker is doing something they shouldn’t, they will be taken to one side and retrained accordingly, and this also gets recorded on the system.

“We once had a safety breach on a site in Bradford, where we had to bar a worker. Then he showed up on another of our sites. That won’t happen with the Biosite technology because we can monitor all worker records centrally.”

Goodhead says Winvic’s safety statistics are now “absolutely accurate” because Biosite records worker hours. “Previously the hours we used to calculate injury frequency rates were guesstimates,” he says.

“It can also help us look at causes of injuries,” he continued. “We received a claim for a subcontractor operative’s knee injury. We tracked all his work patterns using Biosite and discovered he had carried on working on the day of the injury and the next day. So he didn’t report it immediately. And we didn’t get the claim for three months. It was quashed by the insurance company.”

The accurate hours measure also means Winvic can track how much time subcontractors are actually on site, useful if the project is behind, adds Goodhead.

The system can help root out slavery and illegal immigrants. “We had a few east European workers on a Southampton site and with one of them, his fingerprint brought up three different entries, each with the same photo, but with three different names,” explains Goodhead. “They had created fraudulent identities, presumably to avoid immigration or tax authorities. We flagged it up to the labour supplier. We would like to link worker records to their right-to-work documentation.”

Goodhead believes Winvic is “scratching the surface” of the technology’s potential and next steps could include asking delivery drivers to use a fingerprint reader to record a delivery. He adds that Winvic is also working with Biosite on technology that would allow disabling ignitions on plant and machinery.

Goodhead sees Biosite as another step in the industry’s shift away from filling out paper forms. “People might have seen it as another health and safety fad, but it is a significant cultural change,” he adds.

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