Construction businesses have significant safety responsibilities. Not only do companies have to ensure that finished buildings are suitable for safe use, but also that every step along the way to project completion includes hazard protection procedures. This can be challenging, given the sheer number of moving parts any construction project presents.
The good news is that technological developments over the last several years are positively influencing safety efforts. We’re going to explore a few of the key transformative factors shaping safety in the industry today.
Planning safety protocols
Safety in construction begins long before any ground has been broken. The stronger and more relevant the planning in place prior to projects, the more robust and impactful these measures are likely to be throughout the process. There’s been some important recent developments that have begun to transform how safety planning in construction is assessed, bolstered, and implemented.
Among the most crucial developments here are data-driven risk assessment processes. The rise of the digital landscape has seen a greater emphasis on collecting, sharing, and assessing huge volumes of data. In the construction industry, data analytics platforms are able to review historical and current information to give insights into specific types of project risks, from budgetary issues to natural disasters. Some of these tools utilize machine learning (ML) algorithms to perform predictive analytics that provides information on the likelihood of various scenarios occurring and what factors can mitigate these.
Another important factor in construction safety planning at the moment is the use of advanced tools. Some forms of automation have the potential to offer safety benefits in and of themselves, such as AI’s ability to monitor safety in real time and robots that handle high-risk manual tasks. However, it’s also vital to understand how AI and robotic tools can present the need for new safety protocols, so you can make relevant arrangements for your projects. For instance, you may need to consider using sensors to detect the safe distance parameters to prevent accidents when humans are collaborating closely with robots. It can also be vital to establish AI programming protocols to minimize the potential for bias in algorithm development.
On-site safety management
Changes in the technology used on-site is another key transformative factor for safety in the contemporary construction industry.
Some of the primary elements at the moment include:
Wearable smart devices have become more accessible in recent years. As a result, they are increasingly practical tools to help monitor and ensure on-site safety. Smart watches or other biometric devices can keep track of workers’ vital signs — such as pulse oxygen levels and indicators of stress — when they’re operating in particularly hazardous construction environments. This enables managers to provide advice and instructions to minimize the potential for harm. There is also specific smart construction safety gear, such as smart boots that detect shocks from falls and automatically contact supervisors or emergency services for assistance. Though, one of the challenges of wearables is to ensure that workers are trained in their effective use and maintenance in order to enable the collection of accurate information.
Sensors in the Internet of Things
Many construction projects are adopting the Internet of Things (IoT) in a range of ways, including for safety. The IoT is an ecosystem of interconnected devices that use sensors to automatically collect and share key data. On construction sites, this may include temperature or atmospheric readings, noise pollution levels, and structural integrity, among other elements. When coupled with effective data analytics software, sensors in the IoT provide project managers with insights into the safety of environments. However, there are also challenges in ensuring that these sensors are correctly calibrated each day and that the network is encrypted to protect the project from cybercriminals.
Tools for drivers and supply chain partners
It’s important to remember that the infrastructure that supports construction influences the success of projects. Among the elements that are shaping safety in construction are the tools that have emerged to protect workers interacting with the supply chain.
Some of the important components here include:
Driver assistance technologies
Driver assistance technologies can support safety via sensors that monitor the vehicle and support hazard avoidance practices. This takes various forms and has a range of applications. For construction industry drivers and delivery personnel, surround-view cameras and blind-spot monitoring can enable better awareness of large loads and environmental factors that might interfere with safe transport. There are also assistance technologies that provide safety support through automation, such as automated emergency braking and evasive steering assistance to avoid collisions. However, it’s important that drivers are aware that automated elements do not absolve them of responsibility. Rather, they need to be trained to collaborate with these systems rather than rely on them.
Supplier management platforms
It’s an important supply chain safety duty to ensure that all products provided by partners and the way in which they’re created adhere to strict safety principles. This may be in relation to industry regulatory compliance standards or simply the ethical standards your construction business insists upon. Cloud-based supplier management platforms enable businesses to maintain visibility of partners throughout the chain. These can be used to host shared compliance guideline documents, collect data from each partner, and keep businesses in communication with each other.
There are various tools and technologies that have become transformative factors in contemporary construction safety. Planning processes are being bolstered by data-driven risk management platforms, while both AI and robotics are prompting more relevant supportive protocols. On-site safety management is bolstered by the presence of smart wearable devices and sensors in the IoT. The safety impact of the supply chain is also often improved by the mindful use of assistive driver tech and supplier management platforms. As technologies continue to develop, it’s vital that project managers commit to both considering their use as safety components and ensuring protocols address the new challenges they may present.