While inspecting a skyscraper, a construction worker suffers a fatal fall. On a hot summer day, a worker suffers from heatstroke and has to be taken to hospital. After several years of work, a construction worker gets back pain and is forced into early retirement. Construction has always involved dangerous work, but that doesn’t mean accidents like these are inevitable: new technology has the potential to improve construction safety. At a time when costs are high and there is a shortage of skilled labor, new technology can be a game changer.
Drones go where humans can’t
To make safe decisions, you need to be informed. Drones can collect information about hard-to-reach places. This information can help workers avoid hazards and prepare appropriately before entering particular areas.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) says drones can help construction management monitor and inspect large construction sites. Drones can be particularly useful when inspecting tall buildings and bridges, where human workers are at risk of falling if they conducted the inspections in person.
NIOSH states that falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, accounting for 36.4% of all fatalities. While safety equipment can help workers stay safe at great heights, it’s even better if workers can stay at ground level. With drones, contractors can eliminate some work at high altitude.
Drones can also help protect construction sites from crime. Thieves often target construction sites because of the expensive equipment and valuable metals. Drones provide another way to monitor the site to catch thieves and prevent crime.
Monitoring devices keep workers safe
In commercial trucking, telematics devices can monitor vehicles to ensure they are operating properly and monitor drivers to ensure they are driving safely. Wearable devices can provide similar benefits in the construction industry. For example, smartwatches can detect falls and notify other crew members to help without delay. Wearables unveiled at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2021 include smart boots, smart helmets and augmented reality glasses.
According to Engineering News-Record, portable security monitoring devices can collect security data and issue alerts. While some workers may have privacy concerns, the potential security benefits make these devices extremely attractive. Both large and small construction companies are beginning to embrace this technology.
These devices can be especially useful for contractors dealing with dangerously hot weather. Construction Dive says a health monitoring company has created a wristband connected to a mobile app to monitor workers’ body temperatures and help them avoid heat-related illnesses.
Heat stroke is no laughing matter. OSHA says dozens of workers die each year working in hot or humid conditions and thousands more get sick. Technology like this can help workers avoid heat stroke and save lives.
Exoskeletons help workers move safely
Construction exoskeletons are devices that workers can wear to support posture or movement. NIOSH states that passive exoskeletons support posture or movement using springs, counterweight forces, or other unpowered mechanisms, while active exoskeletons use force- or torque-generating elements, such as electric motors, pneumatics, or hydraulics, to support posture or movement.
Construction workers are vulnerable to work-related musculoskeletal disorders – soft tissue injuries caused by overexertion and repetitive movements. NIOSH says older workers are particularly susceptible to musculoskeletal problems and may require hospitalization. These disorders have also been identified as a contributing factor to the opioid epidemic.
Exoskeletons can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders by providing back support and improving posture. This can prevent injuries and workers’ compensation claims. It could also help keep older workers active in the workforce for longer. The US Chamber of Commerce found that 62% of entrepreneurs have great difficulty finding skilled labor and 45% of entrepreneurs have had to turn down work due to a lack of skilled labor. Many construction companies are eager to use technology that can increase retention – and exoskeletons can do just that.
Build your construction safety strategy
New technology promises to improve construction safety, which could mean fewer injuries and deaths. It can also help construction companies increase manpower, improve efficiency and reduce costs. This technology can be a game-changer, but it’s still only one aspect of your overall risk management strategy. BNC provides purpose-built insurance packages for the construction industry. Read more.