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Nutrien increases use of Triax’s Proximity Trace tech to curb COVID-19 spread

Nutrien says it is expanded its use of proximity monitoring and contact tracing technology, Proximity Trace™ from Triax Technologies, to its potash mines in Saskatchewan, Canada, as it looks to continue tracking and combatting the spread of COVID-19.

More than 8,000 employees are using the technology to date, with an additional 6,500 expected to be part of the expansion in the coming months, representing 65% of Nutrien’s global employee base.

At the start of the pandemic, Nutrien was deemed an essential service in its core markets for its role in supporting the agriculture industry. To help mitigate the spread of the virus, Nutrien partnered with Triax to help its workers maintain a minimum of 6 ft (close to 2 m) of physical distancing and automatically capture data about their interactions with co-workers, as part of its COVID-19 protocols.

Originally deployed last July at Nutrien’s nitrogen and phosphate sites in the US, Proximity Trace is now being rolled out at Nutrien’s potash mines in Saskatchewan and at corporate offices in Colorado, Illinois, Alberta and Saskatchewan, it said.

Nutrien EVP & Chief Information Officer, Brent Poohkay, said: “In the early days of the pandemic, global health authorities called upon the private sector to step up and do our part to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19. Nutrien developed a playbook that articulates a strategy and a plan for handling the virus, and the Triax system has been valuable in keeping our essential workers safe to help ensure a health crisis doesn’t become a food crisis.

“Now we are expanding the playbook as we redefine the future of work with safety and integrity at the forefront.”

Proximity Trace tags are attached to workers’ clothing or hard hats and produce an audio and visual alert to those who come within 6 ft of one another. These wearable sensors also automatically log data for leaders to quickly perform contact tracing if a positive case arises, thereby preventing further spread at the site and reassuring those who are not at risk, Nutrien explains.

“Since it pinpoints the individuals who may have been exposed, the solution also helps Nutrien minimise operational shutdowns and reduces the risk of associated costs and product delivery delays,” it said.

Dr Tarek Sardana, one of the medical experts who’s been advising Nutrien’s executive leadership team regarding COVID-19 responses and protocols, said: “At the workplace, if you maintain proper physical distancing, then your risk of spreading the virus is very low. I encourage people to think of themselves as if they’re living within six-foot bubbles, and if no one penetrates the bubbles, it’s harder for the virus to spread.”

Robert Costantini, CEO of Triax Technologies, said: “We’re honoured that Nutrien has included our Proximity Trace technology as an essential part of its COVID-19 health and safety playbook. Nutrien’s commitment to worker safety through physical distancing and contact tracing was prioritised early on by their management and their focus on this issue has been exemplary. We’re pleased that our wearable sensors can play a critical role in enabling these protocols to create a safer environment.”

Since the implementation of the Triax technology, Nutrien has been able to safely support as many as 1,700 employees and contractors at a time at its nitrogen and phosphate sites. The physical distancing alerts have reduced the number of close contacts, positive cases and quarantines. Additionally, the automated data system has improved the efficiency and accuracy of contact tracing, it said.

“As Nutrien explores how to safely return more employees who have been working remotely to the workplace, the Triax technology will support additional prevention and protection across Nutrien’s North American footprint,” the company concluded.