New Tech Seeks to Improve Worker Safety
Fewer worksite injuries mean lower costs for builders
Though the data isn’t in yet on 2017 construction worker safety, the recent trend is troubling, with 2015 and 2016 both seeing increases in construction worker deaths. However, it’s likely the future will bring improvements for worker safety due to new jobsite technology aimed at preventing injuries in the first place and mitigating potentially serious accidents by enabling a rapid response. With the rest of the construction world rapidly digitalizing, it’s no surprise that some believe the keys to worker safety improvements can be found in new tech. And keeping workers safe isn’t just the right thing to do: it can decrease costs for builders by mitigating risk, lowering insurance premiums and keeping a project on schedule.
According to a recent report by Dodge Data and Analytics, even technology that’s not directly engineered to reduce workplace accidents can have a positive impact on worker safety. For instance, the use of Building Information Technology (BIM), which allows for more robust building models and better coordination between architects, designers and field workers, has had a positive impact on worker safety according to 60% of survey respondents. Compare that to 2012, when only 42% of respondents felt BIM had a positive impact on worker safety.
Tracking Movement, Reducing Injury
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that construction jobsite accidents account for nearly 20% of all US work-related fatalities and injuries. One way the field is working to reduce these injuries—which OSHA places into the four categories of falls, struck by object, electrocution and caught-in/between—is by spreading wearable technology. Many of these devices feature GPS tracking ability to help locate wearers, and some devices can even detect whether a worker has fallen asleep or is motionless. This data gets transmitted back to a central database, where a construction manager can monitor it for unusual activity.
Achieving Buy-In, Reducing Costs
There has been some backlash, however, from workers who suspect that the devices are really intended to track their movements as a means of increasing productivity, and see the technology as an invasion of privacy. Employers will have to prove to workers that these safety measures are to be used as advertised, and not as a ploy for more workplace control.
Meanwhile, one of the keys to wider adoption from the employer side is that the wearables, which are new to market, need to be studied in action; if it’s determined that they are efficient at reducing risk, insurance companies will reflect that in their premiums. According to the Dodge Report, that is the single largest factor that can bump the C-suite into adopting greater safety standards: 72% of executive said reduced insurance rates would encourage them to invest in safety management practices; 42% said more data on financial benefits of safety measures would prod them toward action.
With products like the Spot-r Clip positioning device claiming to reduce injury response time by 91%, badges by Redpoint that detect when workers step into hazard zones, and a headband by SmartCap that detects when a machine operator is falling into “microsleep,” it’s clear we’re entering a new era of safety technology that may have the power to end the disturbing upward trend of jobsite injuries in the construction field. Now it’s up to owners and employees to take the next step into a safer future.