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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 January 2021

CORONAVIRUS

French workers stressed by plan to impose wearable alarms

Essity staff told social-distancing alarms are for their own safety

For work places, the coronavirus pandemic has brought new challenges. Stock photo/File
For work places, the coronavirus pandemic has brought new challenges. Stock photo/File

Workers at a company making hand sanitisers and soap are angry at attempts to force them to wear personal alarms aimed at keeping them a Covid-fighting social distance apart.

Essity, which also manufactures tissues, sanitary products and napkins, wanted its French workers to wear the devices that emit a shrill beep if two people get within two metres of each other.

But workers say the device, which rings out at 85 decibels, or about the volume of a lawnmower, is stressful and infantilising for the wearer.

A raft of Covid-fighting products have hit the market in the past few months, including wearable alarms and trackers and apps that aim to keep people in a virtual, protective bubble.

In the UK, the BBC is one of the country’s major employers whose staff are using wearable tech.

Generally, the devices were developed to tackle the Covid problem and with that, social distancing is key. But there is a concern the rights of employees have not been considered.

Essity, based in Sweden, has more than 45,000 employees. Essity
Essity, based in Sweden, has more than 45,000 employees. Essity

At Essity, a Swedish company with more than 45,000 staff and a global market, the trial in France highlights the problem of health versus rights.

The CFDT union called the alarms "a system comparable to ones that try to dissuade dogs from barking".

Union representative Christine Duguet said the devices will "finish in the rubbish bins or stay in a cupboard. This is complete nonsense".

Essity staff have been told the alarms are for their own safety and that the devices will be deactivated in the company canteen, toilets and medical areas.

The sensors are not personalised – unlike some of the new wearables – and do not have a system enabling the company to locate them, according to management.

The proposals are set to be discussed at a personnel meeting next week, but employees are already warning that the devices will end up like many of the company's single-use products.

Asked for comment at the company's headquarters, spokesman Karl Stoltz said the system "is just tested in France".

Updated: January 15, 2021 01:48 PM

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