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Biometric scanning: The future of workplace check-in & access

Today, it’s rare to find a workplace that doesn’t implement a type of worksite access management system. We’ve seen most large businesses move from the humble paper visitor sign-in book, to a virtual reception, leveraging a variety of software tools that combine pre-qualification, kiosk or smartphone technology, used to authenticate worksite access of employees and contractors. The pace of this evolution is not expected to slow, with the rising adoption of biometrics in identification and site access.

The use of biometric data (e.g. facial, fingerprint and iris scans) to identify and authenticate individuals in the workplace, is becoming more popular due to the significant efficiencies that could be gained across multiple business areas:

  • Reduction in technology and operating costs associated with managing lost key cards and forgotten passwords.
  • Greater efficiency by reducing queues and delays at workplace access points, caused by individuals searching for passes.
  • Great for sterile environments such as hospitals, due to the contactless nature of facial recognition.
  • Enhanced security by removing the ability to share access cards between individuals.
  • Improved safety and hazard management with real-time reporting of headcount, to manage worksite evacuations.

Understandably, having one’s face, eye or finger scanned by their employer or client does raise genuine privacy concerns. Recently, Victoria’s Education Minister, James Merlino raised his concerns over the trial of facial recognition technology in schools. The trial sees the traditional student roll-call, replaced with biometric scanning and reporting of classroom attendance. The Minister claims the software’s privacy risks make him uncomfortable, ordering an immediate review.

Similarly, the Australian Privacy Act (1988), refers to Biometric data as sensitive information, however employee records are exempt. In a current case before the Fair Work Commission, a sawmill worker claimed he was dismissed for refusing to scan his fingerprint, which he believes is personal and private information. This Fair Work “appeal raises important, novel and emerging issues, not previously the subject of full bench consideration and guidance”. This appeal may result in a landmark case regarding worker rights vs biometric technology.

While there are legitimate concerns about the privacy and security of biometric data, which may need further legislative reform to keep up with this technology, it’s anticipated this will ease with the growing adoption and use of biometric identification in our day-to-day lives. Facial recognition and fingerprint scanning has been widely adopted across smartphone and social media platforms, such as Facebook. We’re also experiencing biometric scanning in customs, airports and public events. The question is not whether biometrics will be adopted in my workplace, but how will my workplace need to adapt its policies and systems, to enable individuals to confidently embrace this exciting technology. Not only does it have the potential to improve worksite safety and operational efficiencies, but alleviate the frustrations involved in leaving an access pass at home or forgetting one’s password.

iPRO assists businesses with worksite access management solutions to help control non-compliant contractors from entering a client’s workplace. To learn more about how we do that contact us.

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