No one goes to work expecting to be seriously injured — or worse — but, unfortunately, it happens. In the latest figures released (for 2017), 5,147 workers died during their duties on jobsites. Of those suffering fatal accidents on the job, the construction industry leads the list of hazardous occupations. Official statistics indicate one in five work-related deaths had occurred in construction.
Construction falls within the top 10 most dangerous occupations in the United States. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration refers to the most common causes of death in construction as the “fatal four,” which include:
OSHA notes that if employers were to eliminate these hazards, the industry could prevent almost 600 worker deaths per year. Employers can take additional steps by setting firm policies regarding safety and eliminating various jobsite safety violations found at many worksites.
One significant current — and proactive — trend toward keeping employees safe on the job is by using technology, specifically apps and wearable tech.
Wearable tech designed to increase jobsite safety
Wearable tech, in its modern incarnation, began finding its way into the market in the early 2000s, but took off around 2014. As it currently stands, one-quarter of the U.S. population uses wearable tech at least once a month.
As people become more comfortable with wearable tech, they have been finding new ways to use it — including in the workplace to increase safety. Here are some wearable tech products designed to improve safety on construction worksites.
• Smart Cap. With this wearable, in conjunction with an app, you’ll be able to measure your workers’ alertness levels. Using EEG technology, the Smart Cap alerts both workers and supervisors if someone is too tired or falling asleep.
• Heating and cooling jackets. Not exactly the latest innovation, but the tech used within these jackets has improved. You’ll find today’s versions are lighter to wear, rechargeable, reflective and have heat settings. Most can heat or cool workers for at least eight hours without losing a charge, increasing the ability for workers to maintain healthy body temperatures and stay safe.
• Spot-r. If you’re looking to decrease incidents related to falls, Spot-r is an automated time and attendance device that allows you to capture and transmit data (in real-time) related to slips, trips and falls for each worker. Along with tracking data to help you identify hazards, it offers warnings. Also, workers can alert you to any distress they are experiencing or worksite hazards they encounter.
According to the manufacturer, this wearable improves injury response time by up to 91 percent. There’s even an evacuation alarm that can be transmitted across the worksite. When workers exit the site, the device clocks them out.
• Redpoint positioning. You can use this indoor GPS device to track both your workers and assets because it gives you the ability to keep track of their whereabouts. The device is designed to alert you to any potentially hazardous situations, effectively enabling you to put protective measures in place to decrease the chances of an accident occurring.
• Smart eyewear and augmented reality. Computerized eyewear is another way you can increase the safety factor on worksites. Technologies such as XOi help you to capture and share information in a timely fashion while UpSkill is a software program that works in conjunction with smartphones and apps to communicate directly with workers while they are in the field.
HoloLens, certified protective eyewear by Microsoft, is another innovative tech device to consider as it works with UpSkill and other apps to enable users to see plan overlays in real-time.
Drones and robots will revolutionize the industry
Perhaps not surprisingly, robotic drones are increasingly used to promote construction site safety; you can expect this trend to continue. The industry is using this technology — also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs — to assist with the following:
If you choose to deploy drone technology, be sure to follow all rules and regulations associated with their use. You don’t want to break any laws when flying drones.
When it comes to autonomous mobile robots, general usage will jump from a current 28.7 percent to a whopping 79.3 percent in 2027. Other industries have long been using robotic technologies (i.e., the automotive industry). As new designs are developed, the industry is turning toward integrating more robotics into construction.
That being the case, you also should expect other types of robots to make their way into the construction industry to boost productivity, speed and safety. Some of these machines will be doing a portion of the physical work employees typically perform, but it is anticipated these workers will need retraining to learn how to do the operational work of the machinery. In some cases, construction workers will be working side-by-side with the robots.
Since construction is currently one of the least digitized and automated industries, many companies will find the roles robots can fill to be appealing. Aside from helping fill some of the ongoing labor shortages the sector has been facing, robots will also begin to perform some of the more hazardous tasks on construction sites.
With robots taking over some of the more dangerous tasks, this means humans won’t be the ones put into harm's way and getting injured or killed. Instead, they’ll be reassigned to manage more cognitive tasks, which are also sorely needed skills in the industry.
What to look for when choosing safety tech
As technology moves forward, the above innovations (and more) will continue to grow. As a result, the industry should see a significant decrease in construction-related deaths and other equipment injuries.
Current statistics note that almost 93 percent of companies are using mobile devices daily. When these devices are paired with apps and used strategically and correctly, they can go a long way toward amplifying safety.
When choosing which tech to purchase, companies should evaluate to see which products are worthwhile. Ask yourself these questions:
As the Internet of Things continues to expand with new tech being adopted all the time, as an employer, you’ll want to stay ahead of the learning curve and think about ways you can use progress to boost safety on your worksites. Technologies once left to the imagination in science fiction are now a reality. You can expect tech such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality to continue to make inroads into practical daily uses to increase safety.
The construction industry continues to boom and with this growth, it’s increasingly important to pay attention to the safety factor. Technology is here and at our fingertips, giving us an excellent opportunity to provide a safer, and more productive, workplace. Done smartly, investing in safety tech is a wise use of resources.