The construction industry often experiences numerous changes due to advancements in technology. These advancements have the potential to not only increase productivity but to enhance safety. In October 2017, a new law was passed in New York City -- Local Law 196 -- which mandates that construction workers have a minimum number of hours of training in different safety subjects. The law also states that the safety-course providers of the training must be approved by New York's Department of Buildings.
Technology Is Revolutionizing Construction Safety
Safety in the construction industry is of the utmost importance. Every year, there are thousands of construction injuries, with some of them being fatal. For now, let's take a look at how technology is improving the safety of construction workers. If you're a construction company owner, being aware of these technologies is vital to not only the safety of your workers but the longevity of your company as well. After discussing advancements in technology, we will also cover how data collection and an increased focus on resilience are making the construction industry safer.
Wearables bring about benefits that go far beyond being able to track the location of workers, including their personal selves and the equipment they use, including tools and vehicles. Wearables help eliminate the "Fatal Four," which are fall hazards, caught-in or -between hazards, electrical hazards, and struck-by hazards. Some of today's more popular wearables that reduce safety incidents include smart hard hats and safety vests. These safety tools have sensors and GPS built directly into them, which improves real-time location and tracking capabilities. The devices are powered by solar and kinetic energy. With smart hard hats, workers can enjoy 4D models displayed over their real-world job sites, giving them a full view of what they are working in and with. Sensors alert workers when conditions are hazardous, while built-in screens and internet allow workers to check work emails hands-free. Talk about a boost in both productivity and safety!
Construction companies are widely adopting the use of drones on job sites. Drones allow workers to inspect and scan for hazards as well as to perform simply and complex monitoring of job progress and setbacks. These tools help reduce the need for workers having to perform "high-risk pre-project start inspections on elevated surfaces."
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, those working in the construction industry are 16% more likely to develop a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. With exoskeletons, workers can enjoy valuable assistance in picking up heavy items. The use of exoskeletons can also help workers avoid fatigue, particularly when working long hours. Exoskeletons are available in two types -- power assist and unpowered. Counterweights are used on the unpowered exoskeletons to help remove strain off the worker's body and to improve posture. The power assist ones use sensors and motors when lifting heavy objects.
Exposure to asbestos is a major concern within the construction industry. Each year, more than a million workers are exposed to asbestos, which can lead to the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos can be found in everything from floor tiles, plasters, roofing, and even siding. With site sensors, it becomes possible to almost completely eliminate asbestos exposure. The sensors monitor toxins in the air and provide alerts as to when workers need to exit a job site. These sensors can also monitor both moisture and temperature levels, which is pertinent to staying aware of plumbing leaks and unknown about fires.
Virtual reality is improving job safety by allowing workers to go through training without ever having to step on an actual job site. The virtual reality tools replicate entire job sites and allow workers to move about freely. Workers can interact with their environment and pinpoint potential safety hazards while learning how to avoid them. Virtual reality is somewhat expensive to implement, however, it does have the ability to reduce the cost of safety training on a long-term basis.
Data Collection Improves Construction Worker Safety
Wearable technology augments the ability to gather massive amounts of data. Using machine learning and various forms of intelligence, it becomes possible to mine this data for safety concerns. Construction safety personnel can analyze and detect areas where safety hazards are present while also giving instructions to keep an injury from taking place. It is predicted that more companies throughout the years will start integrating safety data into their day-to-day operations.
Increased Focus on Resilience
Construction companies continue to put a heavy focus on dealing with natural disasters. As we improve the safety of workers during natural disasters, we must also improve the safety of the buildings we construct. This is why the White House declared November as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month. As we increase our focus on improved safety among workers and the buildings we build, this improves the safety throughout the entire construction industry.
As a construction company owner, it's your responsibility to keep your workers safe. Every time you go to work on a project, you must start out the day by asking yourself is this site safe? By taking advantage of technology, you can greatly reduce worker accidents, including slips and falls. You need to take advantage of a technology that "builds a safety culture across your workforce," like Ving, a safety training and compliance monitoring program that excels in improving worker safety. All construction owners should heed a quote by Daniel Groves, the CEO of Construction Industry Resources. Groves says, "that the construction industry is in the habit of “constantly improving,” and if it devotes the same energy into the workforce as it did improving safety, companies will be in better shape."
In addition we want to add one more safety training change to 2020... drum roll please...
While there is no appetite to use robots to replace workers, technology that uses robotics to keep workers safe has begun to emerge. We’re certainly not at the point in which robotic construction technology takes the form of humanoid machines, but rather software and applications are being merged with existing tools. One of the companies at the forefront of this tech revolution is Built Robotics. They have developed guidance systems that interface with off-the-shelf equipment, and use artificial intelligence (AI), cameras, and GPS to perform autonomous construction operations.
Introducing robotics into construction has the potential to significantly reduce the risk of workers being directly involved with site-based accidents. Much like with the logistics industry, there has been some concern expressed that autonomous operations could result in job losses. However, it’s more likely to be the case that construction jobs will expand into new directions. Site workers will be supervising, calibrating, and servicing robotic machinery; their role will be less focused on manual labor, and emphasize their expertise as technicians.
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