While it should be a top priority in any working environment, safety is crucial in dangerous fields like construction.
Sometimes, you need a little extra help to secure your crew and site. Thanks to continued technological innovation, employers are able to have significantly more influence over the daily safety of their crew.
What is Construction Technology?
Companies are increasingly turning to integrated technology for improved worker safety on their job sites. Construction safety technology can address a wide range of safety concerns, from drones to wearable tech and tracking equipment. While there is a host of exciting new safety technologies to choose from, it’s best to consider your most urgent needs before making any big purchases. Review your latest safety evaluation and look for areas where you may have come up short during a safety audit or OSHA inspection. These are the areas on your site that likely need technological support the most.
Importance of Safe Construction Sites
Construction is ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations for workers. Out of all workplace fatalities in 2017, 20% came from the construction industry. Beyond that, nearly 60% of these fatalities were caused by what OSHA refers to as “the fatal four.”
- Falls - Falls resulted in the deaths of 386 construction workers in 2017
- Struck by Objects - 8.2%of worker fatalities were caused by workers being hit by objects, either falling from a height or flying through the air
- Electrocution - Electrocution caused 7.3%of construction worker deaths in 2017
- Caught by Objects - Workers caught in between or compressed by objects resulted in 5.1% of total construction worker deaths in 2017
Despite our awareness of the fatal four, OSHA’s top violations continue to show that proper preventative safety measures are often not enforced. Lack of fall protection, improper and/or unstable scaffolding, and improper ladder use are some of the top violations OSHA cites, proving that additional help is needed to address the fatalities seen on construction sites.
While little can be done to address the innate risks of construction, innovative technology can help track safety and productivity, giving employers better tools to protect their workers.
6 Types of Construction Technology for Safety
Here are six ways that innovation is giving employers more options for their crew’s safety needs:
Drones are a great tool to expand your view of an entire site. Drones can be used on construction sites to inspect the area, look for hazards, and monitor workers. By being able to quickly evaluate an area with the drone’s camera, safety team members will not need to conduct high-risk pre-project start inspections on elevated surfaces in person. Areas that could pose a serious hazard to employees, like an older or abandoned structure, can instead be evaluated safely by the drone.
Construction wearables are specifically designed to minimize the risk of the “fatal four.” Wearables can range greatly from a basic, time-tested safety harness to smart PPE. Some wearable smart tech has sensors, GPS, real-time locating, deployable airbags in case of a fall, and even solar and kinetic energy chargers. Construction wearables can include vests, gloves, watches, and work boots.
3. Virtual Reality Simulators
Virtual reality has a surprising number of uses beyond entertainment, and it’s becoming a major player in construction safety training. There are a number of VR safety training programs that use software to replicate a construction site, allowing contractors and trainees to preview and interact with the environment without the risk of injury.
Some construction companies have found that trainees are more engaged since using VR training, resulting in a lowered rate of safety incidents. While most VR construction safety training focuses on 360-degree views of the site and its hazards, some companies have taken it a step further.
BIM360 has created a DAQRI Smart Helmet that would allow superintendents and designers to walk around the job site in person and, through the use of smart glasses, step into their drawings and blueprints with augmented reality. This, in theory, gives them the chance to see potential issues or obstacles and address them without losing money on the build.
4. Site sensors
Smart sensors can be mounted throughout the construction site to continuously test the air for toxins and other harmful substances. If asbestos, for example, is at a dangerous level, the sensors can inform workers immediately, and they can evacuate before serious harm is done.
This tech not only prioritizes worker safety but also reduces long-term costs and predicts maintenance needs by collecting data and analyzing it over time. Some smart sensors give real-time alerts as well as analysis of risk levels at the site.
Data from construction safety sensors can be sent to site managers, foremen, and superintendents. This data can be extremely useful in monitoring the daily environment of the site. For example, you can keep an eye on rising temperatures to ensure workers are safe from extreme heat or note a rise in humidity levels, which can indicate a possible leak. Overall, safety site sensors are a smart way that managers can mitigate issues before they become costly problems.
Related Article: How to Prepare for a Surprise OSHA Inspection
While it may not be the first safety concern that comes to mind, the typical construction worker’s body deteriorates over time, especially if not taking proper safety precautions. In fact, the CDC states that construction workers are 16% more likely to have a work-related musculoskeletal disorder than all other industries combined. That’s why many construction companies have turned to the Exoskeleton.
Exoskeletons come in two different forms: power assist and unpowered. The power assist model uses sensors and motors to help construction workers lift heavier objects, allowing them to work for longer without feeling exhausted or suffering an injury.
The unpowered exoskeleton still helps reduce injury by improving the worker’s posture and using counterweights to redistribute weight. By removing some strain off of the worker’s body, the exoskeleton helps employees maintain a healthier body while effectively completing the strenuous work needed to get the job done.
6. AI Technology
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry through essential data analysis. By analyzing past safety data, AI can anticipate potential hazards in real time and make suggestions for improved future safety. By collecting information on site conditions, construction project size, equipment in use, and worker experience, AI can help you predict the likelihood of a construction incident, offering you the chance to implement preventative measures.
Additionally, AI-enabled equipment can collect a massive amount of data on safe usage and then send an alert if a malfunction occurs or if incorrect settings are used. This not only helps protect workers from being injured by equipment but also saves costly construction equipment from damage or replacement.
Get Your Team the Training They Need
Safety training can be difficult to fully implement and track for your employees, especially if your team takes on complicated jobs with a variety of specialties and certifications. It can also be costly to keep your team up to date but don’t let these excuses leave your team vulnerable and your job site non-compliant. Safety training pays for itself by helping your team avoid costly accidents and lost productivity.
Whether you are confident that your team has the training and tools they need, or you would like a second set of eyes on your existing practices, working with a safety consultant can give you clarity. SPR is equipped to identify existing issues on your site through a safety audit, as well as supply any needed training to get your crew up to speed. If your team needs to grow, SPR can even help you recruit and retain the right safety talent that will keep your organization responsible and compliant in the future.