An article that ran last week in The Daily Mail detailed a rather unique plan for factory workers in France to wear social distancing “dog collars” that emit an alarm if people stand too close to each other. Needless-to-say, this quirky innovation has caused an outcry from both employees and unions alike.
The device can be worn around the neck or tied around the waist, perhaps akin to the once-popular “fanny packs.” These safety badges make a loud 85-decibel buzzing sound if a distance of two-meters – or approximately three feet in the U.S. – is not observed.
The idea is the brainchild of the Swedish company Essity, which makes hygiene products and has 2,500 employees in France. The company is planning to introduce the contraption to its workforce – which it claims would make contact-tracing easier in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
A French union has very loudly cried foul, condemning the plans as an “attack on individual liberties.” They issued a statement describing the devices as “intrusive” and comparing them to “collars” used to “discourage barking dogs.”
The union voiced fears that Essity would seek to keep the system in place for security reasons following the pandemic. They also added that the gadgets were, at the very least, “anxiety-inducing.”
While not as loud as a heavy metal rock concert, it appears 85 decibels is equivalent to the volume of a vacuum cleaner or garbage disposal. While masks would still be required, there was no mention of ear plugs.
Essity said details were being worked out, saying the device might be configured only to vibrate. The Belgian manufacturers, Phi Data, said 90 or 95 percent of the workforce would need to wear the devices for them to be effective.
The extreme workforce design appears to be inspired by an outbreak at a plant in Chatellerault, where 1,200 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. The government has also been criticized for the slow pace of France’s vaccine rollout, which has been one of the slowest in Europe.