There’s no doubt about it: safety matters. Construction firms are always in pursuit of safer jobsites. While nothing beats a combination of training, safety culture, and leadership buy-in, innovation is playing an increasingly important role on- and off-site.
Technology has advanced significantly in recent years in the realm of construction safety. In celebration of Construction Safety Week, we’re exploring some of those advancements, which are pushing the industry forward and making it safer for all.
1. Machine Learning and AI
What comes to mind when you think of artificial intelligence (AI) on the jobsite? If you’re like a lot of people, you think of robots taking care of tasks. While robots do have their place in the future of construction, the real opportunity behind AI and machine learning is much bigger. It lies in its ability to proactively identify risk and thereby reduce safety issues before they even have the chance to occur.
One of the factors that make construction sites so risky is their variability. By nature, jobsites are generally chaotic, busy, and always changing. So how do you reduce risk in a setting that many might describe as inherently risky? Machine learning can assist through predictive analytics. These analytics uncover patterns to make informed predictions about what may occur, including accidents. Within the industry, more and more firms are using predictive-based safety (PBS) to pinpoint potential risks and proactively address them. According to Engineering News Record, the results for PBS are astounding with early adopters seeing incident rates drop by 50% over a 12-month period.
Autodesk Construction Cloud’s Construction IQ is helping construction firms increase safety. Through machine learning and AI functionality, project leaders can identify high-risk areas of projects, resolve issues, and address problematic safety behaviors in real time.
Another construction safety innovation is Newmetrix, designed to minimize risk through predictive analytics, safety observations, and safety monitoring. Newmetrix’s construction-trained AI engine, Vinnie, finds indicators of project risk to provide insights, predict where to focus your attention and prescribe specific actions to take.
2. Wearables & IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) is what makes wearable devices so smart. When inanimate objects can be connected to the internet, they are joining the IoT. Sensors are installed on machines and devices to monitor performance levels, operating conditions, physical states or other data through connectivity.
The evolution of IoT is found in many industries. Homeowners use sensors to detect changing temperatures, healthcare providers track patient health for chronic conditions through therapeutic devices, and project data experts leverage digital twins to improve predictability in project delivery.
In construction, you may hear IoT referred to as telematics. Sensors and inter-device communication can increase response times to emergencies and improve safety for end users. An example of this technology is Triax Technologies’ Spot-R clip, which detects sudden falls and shares location information with safety responders. The clip can also be used to send a notification about a hazardous situation (such as a gas leak) and track crews to plan assignments.
WakeCap also offers an IoT-based solution for the construction sector that enables real-time workforce reporting. By integrating sensors into existing hard hats and connecting jobsites via wireless mesh network technology, WakeCap improves worker safety, monitoring whether the hard hats are being worn, helping with evacuations, and ensuring safety teams are covering the site.
Redpoint Positioning offers a range of wearable devices for construction safety. The tag-only solution can be used for social distancing measures through a proximity warning system. The real-time location system fully connects to indoor environments and displays location data and up-to-the-minute analytics.
RealWear is another provider of ruggedized wearables for the construction industry. With their assisted reality safety solutions, construction teams can have hands-free access to project documents, plans, and models using simple voice commands, even in extremely noisy environments.
Beyond wearables, IoT devices can also be used to measure a range of environmental factors that impact health and safety. For instance, Awair Omni’s sensors monitor seven key factors that influence the well-being of your occupants: VOCs (chemicals), PM2.5 (inhalable dust), carbon dioxide (CO2), humidity, temperature, light, and noise.
3. Qualification Software
Fostering a safe work environment begins with qualified individuals, those who are up-to-date with verifiable credentials and standards. Subcontractors with a strong safety performance history are far less likely to have an incident on their next project. Incidents on-site increase the risk of potential harm to workers and can cause work to be delayed or completely shut down. They can also affect productivity rates, hurt morale, and put your firm at financial risk.
But how do you analyze safety and the qualifications of individuals and teams? The latest construction innovations leverage historical data, financial metrics, and performance to evaluate risk. Qualification software like TradeTapp cuts down on the time it takes to measure contractor risk for builders in its risk mitigation platform. It includes built-in automated risk mitigation recommendations to reduce risk early in the preconstruction process.
Another construction safety innovation includes myComply. Their platform helps builders ensure a qualified workforce on their projects, including subcontractor employees. As a testament of the innovation’s effectiveness, the New York Department of Buildings (NYC DOB) selected myComply to build the software in its city-wide construction safety database. This centralized database will help the NYC DOB ensure that all construction workers on permitted projects are qualified to perform their work safely and will help permit holders automate the daily tracking of worker training on the job site, to be in full compliance with regional regulations.
4. Mobile Software
Effectively addressing safety issues means meeting workers where they are: on the field. Mobile software is critical to the industry as workers can access it easily on the go. Through mobile applications, safety managers and superintendents can track safety issues on the jobsite. Safety managers can document and inspect issues, and provide timely communications right from their smartphone or tablet while on the jobsite. Productivity and efficiency increase as a result.
There are some mobile applications that are helping safety managers document and review issues from anywhere. Safesite’s free safety management system removes the paper from inspections, audits and checklists, toolbox talks, and incident reports. Users can select from available templates or upload their own. Safesite also provides analytics around safety data in real time.
SignOnSite’s mobile-powered workflows also drive key safety outcomes for the construction industry. The app is used by construction teams to manage on-site communication, attendance, and compliance processes. Incorporating automatic sign-on, inductions, evacuations, SWMS and worker permits, SignOnSite aims to deliver a simple infield solution for the construction industry.
With Safety Reports, managers and employees can go beyond compliance with its suite of safety software tools. The core solutions include Inspections, Training, JSAs, Observations, Incidents, Scan, and Forms apps. Each solution is designed to improve engagement in the safety process and performance.
One of biggest barriers to safety engagement is generic daily surveys. These black and white forms don’t include everything needed for project managers, often don’t end up in the right hands, and may even repeat the same questions. Instead of selecting generic templates, create daily surveys that reflect your team and the information they need. Raken connects the office to the jobsite through its field management solution, which includes toolbox talks, customizable branded daily surveys, editable checklists and form templates, and jobsite data.
eMOD allows organizations to efficiently manage, track, and comply with environmental, health, and safety regulations. eMOD includes features such as safety onboarding, job hazard analysis, pre-task planning, toolbox talks, audits, checklists, worker certifications and real-time metrics.
In a recent episode of the Digital Builder podcast, experts from Raken and myComply discuss how to create a safer construction culture with technology. Listen to the episode here.
What’s Your Favorite Construction Safety Innovation?
Staying on top of the latest safety innovations will help you find methods that suit your goals and team. We’ve shared some of our favorites. Now it’s your turn — drop your favorite construction tech or innovation in the comments section!