Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. While jobsite safety is a top priority on every construction project, in 2015 one in five worker deaths were in the construction industry. The leading causes of these deaths (excluding highway collisions) were falls, followed by struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, these "Fatal Four" were responsible for more than half (64.2%) of the construction worker deaths in 2015. Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 602 workers' lives in America every year!
Sadly, the number of deaths in the construction industry continues to increase. Construction jobsites are a hectic place—multiple contractors and their crews all working at the same time, and crews are constantly changing as the project progresses. Enter disruption. That disruption comes in the form of wearable technology and it provides new safety advantages and opportunities to make construction jobsites safer.
Most construction project managers can’t tell you the number of workers on the jobsite at any given time, or where those workers are located. With workplace safety a growing concern among contractors, RFID technology lets you track location and movement of workers while they are on site and account for each team member. Systems can be tailored for use in traditional entry-exit areas, hard access control gates, and open access zones for vehicle entry. Workers can be tracked when they are around heavy machinery, or in a danger zone they shouldn’t be in, and enables you to locate workers when emergency situations arise. In addition, some wearables have a panic button feature that enables the worker to call for help.
Construction is a physically demanding, a labor-intensive industry with heavy manual material handling and awkward work postures. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a leading cause of injury among construction workers, with overexertion in lifting causing over one-third of these injuries. The rate of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in construction is 16% higher than in all other industries combined. Since back injuries are the most prevalent work-related musculoskeletal disorders in construction, and shoulder and other joint injuries are also major causes of injury, exoskeletons present an attractive possibility. Exoskeletons help workers manage physically demanding tasks with less risk of injury and can extend the physical careers of aging workers.
Smart Helmets and Glasses
The popularity of smartphones has increased hazards on the jobsite because workers become distracted or are often looking down. Smart helmets and glasses aim to get devices out of worker's hands and get their eyes up to focus on the task at hand. Conducting inspections, taking photos, and documenting issues with written notes is a slow, laborious process. Smart glasses allow for hands-free documentation of building progress, the ability to annotate and update blueprints in the field, take notes via voice memo, and even view automated dashboards from live field data. Smart helmets and glasses enable contractors to do their job better: helping them navigate and understand the jobsite better, and discern conditions in a much more accurate and safe manner.
VR/AR glasses can also be implemented for faster, safer, and more effective heavy equipment training, and to visualize where assets should go in planning staging areas, supply deliveries, and equipment storage.
The Bottom Line
As with all new technology, the price tag on these items is still high, and implementation is challenging due to the rugged conditions and remote locations of most construction sites. And, as advanced as a wearable can be in monitoring safety, they do not replace common safety procedures. Contractors are being encouraged to consider productivity and safety gains, and weigh them against the rising costs of workplace injuries. And while adoption is still developing, the opportunities for the future are endless.
Learn more about Trimble Crewsight
, a flexible and scalable system that is easy to deploy and use at construction work site.