Next-Gen Tech: Safety Considerations

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road, and in homes and communities.

Raising awareness about safety is critical too—especially considering the number of workplace injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 4,821 people—more than 13 per day—died while doing their jobs. Implementing safety measures can change these statistics.

Going a step further, technology can also change the game for safety in the construction industry—and this is being seen on the jobsite, in the office, and on the road.

Tech Challenges at the Jobsite

Companies are trying to keep their workers safe, increase productivity, and are faced with an aging workforce. There are many ways to use new technology at the construction jobsite.

Wes Scott, director of workplace consulting at the National Safety Council, says technology can be used to record inspections, observations, track performance, and share collected data. One of the difficulties is that projects may be scattered across a wide geographical range and, as a result, it makes data sharing an even greater challenge.

Addressing the stumbling blocks associated with leveraging technology for safety will be essential to determining how to best move the industry forward.

Another hurdle with adopting new technologies and practices is changing the mindset of people who have been completing a particular task the same way for a long time. Some construction firms find it difficult to remain strategic while implementing technology and keeping pace with changes, while still embracing the need to gain acceptance from veteran employees.

There are also cost considerations, as well as freeing up capital for the technological improvements.

Scott says another concern is that if technology fails, employees may be left without the tools they have come to rely upon to keep them safe.

Still, even though there are some impediments associated with leveraging technology to improve safety, systems can help make the jobsite safer—it is a matter of identifying where it can be implemented.

A Safer, Smarter Jobsite

Being able to use technology for jobsite improvement and safety is the main reason for adopting it. Additionally, using it can increase productivity. For example, Zach Haas, industrial product manager, Ekso Bionics describes technology that does both.

“The EksoZeroG significantly reduces the amount of strain on workers’ bodies. Not only does this leave them feeling better at the end of every day, it also reduces the likelihood that they will sustain a serious injury due to the strain and overuse their bodies are subjected to when completing jobs with traditional methods. Jobs get completed to a higher level of quality, in a shorter amount of time, with higher worker morale, all while reducing the number of workplace injuries,” Haas says.

Some other benefits include significantly advancing safety standards, helping contractors to plan safer jobsites, improving collaboration and information sharing, correcting safety situations before projects begin, and reducing costly injuries and delays.

The opportunities to leverage new technologies at the construction jobsite to improve safety are endless. There are driverless trucks controlled by GPS (global-positioning system), revolutionary materials and 3D printing, drones for monitoring construction progress, site sensors for noise and permissible levels, and smart equipment like hardhats with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or clothing that monitors respiration. All make the jobsite safer and more productive.

Mitchell Smith, president, Pike Consulting Group, says he has seen new safety technology that provides more comfort and safety.

“Most contractors don’t want to wear their fall protection harness because they are heavy, hot, and cumbersome. Some companies are making harnesses that have cooling technology in them to help the workers stay cool on the site; they are also doing lighter weight buckles. There is an app that will test the decibel meter level. It will measure the amount of noise in the environment you are in. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has a table that tells you how long and how loud you can handle the noise before you should use ear plugs,” Smith states.

Tech Adoption Moves Forward

With all of these technologies and options available to improve safety at the construction jobsite, it becomes critical to identify which are more important for a particular project. This is where developing best practices becomes critical to ensuring successful implementation on a project.

Another factor that needs to be considered is implementing the technology in a way that will help with safety—and not distract from the task at hand.

Workers need to be cautious with any new technology on the jobsite if for no other reason than because it is new and unknown and it does take some time to get used to it. These new technologies need to be implemented in a strategic manner.

Haas says construction professionals should work closely with companies introducing these new technologies to ensure they are aware of all the safety concerns they have.

Some safety considerations will be less obvious than others and its thorough collaboration that contractors will identify all relevant concerns and ensure they are addressed.

The market and demand for safety on construction projects is only growing—and technology can be an enabling tool that helps at the jobsite. The contractors that choose to adapt sooner will quickly outpace their competitors who are stuck in the past using old-fashioned methods. Hass says, “More important than that, contractors should know that we are developing these products specifically to keep workers healthy.”

Technology can help to complete projects with low costs, avoid disputes between contractor and owner, and without mistakes. Projects that use the latest technologies can also enhance the performance of worker, increase the productivity, and improve safety.

June is National Safety Month. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the producers of CONEXPO-CON/AGG, is a proud sponsor of National Safety Month in partnership with the National Safety Council. AEM’s full-line of safety materials communicate the preparation, safe operation and maintenance of equipment across all industry sectors. Learn more at www.safetymaterials.org

Posted: 6/15/2017 12:15:33 PM



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