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construction return to work safely

How Construction Firms Can Return to Work Safely 

These uncertain times make us want to seek comfort. At home, we can easily turn to small comforts that make us feel safe like our families, pets, or in my case, my favorite snack — buffalo wing flavored Cheese-its. Food may give us comfort at home, but how about at work?

But in all seriousness, workers want to work. But they also don’t want to endanger their families to earn a paycheck. So, how can construction firms plan to ensure they are providing a safe workplace?

For employers, the risk of exposing employees to illness is a big concern. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend several preventative measures to keep safe while out in public:

  1. Keep physically distanced from others a minimum of 6 feet
  2. Avoid groups of 10 or more
  3. Wear a mask to protect yourself and those around you

As contractors make the difficult decision to keep sites up and running or plan for project restarts, it’s important to enforce these recommendations across their jobsites. Some jurisdictions, like Seattle for instance, have mandated that contractors can only go back to work once they have a plan showing how they will maintain physical distancing and follow other safety and health requirements. This approach could likely be used as a template not only for other regions across the country but also for other sectors of the economy.

Many firms are deploying software solutions to help manage safety checks, inspections, and quality control. For instance, a Tier 1 contractor in the UK, Mace, is a part of the UK’s Construction Leadership Council. Recently, they helped outlined site operating procedures that contractors are now using during the COVID-19 period. Based on these recommendations, Mace has adjusted their site operation procedures to include the creation of daily checklists for teams to use in BIM 360 and PlanGrid during daily safety briefings.

Beyond daily management measures, construction firms are turning to advanced tools to help identify and anticipate safety concerns. To help in this regard, Smartvid.io has aimed its AI, nicknamed Vinnie, at the problem. Since early April, Vinnie has been deployed on projects to identify workers in close proximity (within 6’) and in large groups (of 10 or more) using jobsite imagery. Additionally, Vinnie has been trained to identify construction workers wearing protective masks. The images are obtained from Smartvid.io’s pre-built integration with BIM 360 and other project management platforms.

Vinnie uses these AI observations to measure the compliance percentages for COVID-19 behaviors and help with positive feedback loops to project teams. What’s a good percentage of workers wearing masks or social distancing? It depends on which region of the country you are in. In a recent review of over 35,000 workers, Smartvid found mask compliance rates (% of workers seen wearing masks) ranged from 85% to 72% across the North East, Midwest, South and West. This data, when combined with a proactive safety program, helps contractors stay ahead of potential problems by benchmarking their jobs and providing feedback. If desired, Vinnie can also send reports or alerts to project personnel so they can correct any identified issues. What results is improved trust between the worker and contractor as well as the contractor, owner, and local authorities.

Additionally, tools like Kwant.ai and Triax are exploring ways to use sensors to help construction professionals identify when they may be too close, helping maintain social distance.

Construction companies need to return to work and continue building. Technology can help teams do this in a way where they can feel safe and employers can feel supported knowing they can easily identify any challenges to maintaining social distance and safety protocols.

Our families and even food may help us feel comfortable at home, but information is needed to make us feel safe and secure on the jobsite. Data that allows us to implement and monitor social distancing policies can help us measure the effectiveness of our efforts to keep employees safe. As employers, we can be more confident we are documenting proactive efforts to keep everyone healthy (and productive). Data is a key ingredient in the recipe for trust – and trust is critical as the workforce gets comfortable in the new normal.

SmartVid.io, AGC Massachusetts, and Autodesk Construction Cloud™ are collaborating on an upcoming webinar on Wednesday, July 29 featuring Shawmut’s use of Vinnie and BuildingConnected’s TradeTapp to minimize risk in construction.

Register for the webinar here. Email carolyn.frankel@autodesk.com for free registration.

Tim Gattie

Tim Gattie

VP of Industry Strategy at Smartvid.io

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