Addressing the Human Element in Jobsite Safety

When it comes to safety on the jobsite, the goal is that at the end of the day everyone goes home to their family. The reality is that the goal is not always met. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015, more than 93 a week or more than 13 deaths every day. In construction, the “fatal four” include falls, struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between, which account for more than half of construction worker deaths. If these types of deaths could be eliminated, more than 600 lives would be saved a year.

Juggling Humans and Technology

There have been many products designed and introduced to increase safety on the jobsite. The technology options available provide a lot of solutions. From increased fall protection, to safety guidelines instantly at your fingertips, navigating the sea of options is the challenge.

Staying safe on the jobsite needs to start with contractor training, practice, and repetition. However, that is getting harder to achieve, as a new workforce is beginning to emerge.

Carl Heinlein, safety consultant, American Contractors Insurance Group, says, “One of the challenges we are seeing in areas of the U.S. is a need for a construction workforce. We have a lack of interest. That affects the experience level. They used to work their way up. New individuals now come from different backgrounds and need to know the hazards on the jobsite.”

Another issue that pops up is getting workers to follow regular safety procedures at the jobsite. All too often many workers tend to lean toward doing something that is more convenient rather than following traditional safety procedures.

Pete Schermerhorn, chief operating officer, Triax Technologies emphasizes that “Construction remains an inherently dangerous occupation.” He points to a 2015 study where it found that one in five worker deaths occurred in construction.

Schermerhorn adds, “One of the biggest problems we hear about in construction is oversight of, and compliance with, correct safety procedures. Even something as simple as jumping a few feet to a lower level versus using the stairs can lead to injury and time lost on a jobsite. Having the visibility and insight available to correct these behaviors is helping to promote a safety culture across jobsites and helping workers to take ownership of that culture.”

There are certain behaviors and actions technology cannot predict or resolve. However, technology is emerging very quickly and it is attempting to help reduce the number of accidents and deaths on the jobsite. As a result, we are seeing upgrades and new products that are being introduced almost every day. Heinlein adds, “You will never take the person out of construction and they need to be able to understand the tech and the safety issues that come with using the new technology.”

The nature of construction is one with many variables, and there are a number of different companies that work on each jobsite, which creates unique requirements for creating a safe working environment.

“One of the biggest challenges is simply the nature of construction itself. It can be a very chaotic environment with a dynamic workforce. Different workers from different trades are coming and going. From an IT infrastructure standpoint, it’s incredibly challenging to deploy technology. We know that accidents are going to happen, to even the most experienced workers, but new technology is becoming readily available to make things safer,” Schermerhorn says.

Technology as a Safety Partner

Technology at the jobsite can eliminate and prevent some safety hazards—and it is offering new ways to keep workers safe. “If a construction crew can (use) a drone to look at a wall five stories up instead of having a worker go up there themselves, it is safer. A lot of the new technology, 3D BIM, for example, lets us see the project before we execute it and we can see potential hazards and protection issues,” Heinlein says.

Having technology available that can connect the contractor to the manager and alert others of accidents also helps increase safety on the construction jobsite.

“Right now, there’s not a great way for a worker to communicate if they’re injured or if they see something unsafe on the jobsite. Providing a wearable device that allows real-time communication of injuries, tagged with their location is bringing real, positive benefits to the market,” Schermerhorn says.

A wearable device that is equipped with a sensor to track and record safety incidents, like slips, trips, and falls is essential. Part of the challenge now is that these wearables need to come down in price to give more construction companies an opportunity to understand the effectiveness these tools provide via worker safety. Having all the information available to view in realtime means knowing when a worker is hurt and where they are on the site, which can substantially decrease the severity of injuries and get help faster.

Thus as more tech companies unveil products that have self-alert buttons they will continue to gain in popularity. It’s not only about keeping up with safety rules and regulations, there are also a number of tech tools options that can be used on the jobsite that come in the form of mobile apps as well.

According to Heinlein, some of the apps can provide instant answers and tips for safety. “These apps are immediate, they give you answers and up-to-date safety help. It is a reliable resource,” Heinlein adds.

There are also apps that provide micro learning. It is a new way to get safety reminders. It is a 3-5 minute game that is on your device and it is a learning reminder, a refresher course for safety. It has been shown that after playing one, the learning and retention is better weeks after than if it was read in a book.

Overall there are many technology solutions to assist contractors on the jobsite with safety. From going paperless, to keeping equipment better maintained, efficiency improves when technology is implemented on the jobsite.

“With so much technology available to the construction market today, it’s important to adopt solutions that are proven, practical, scalable, and adaptable. As an evaluator, be sure to invest in basic research to make sure you are choosing the right technology and that the right company stands behind that technology. Build relationships with key providers and work to develop company implementation processes today to increase the chance of a smooth technological transition tomorrow,” Schermerhorn says.

While technology is making the jobsite safer, no device or app can fully account for the human element. Jobsite safety is a collaborative effort and when everyone works together toward the same goal the outcome is everyone going home at the end of the day.

Posted: 8/22/2017 12:04:59 PM



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