The construction sector is among the most dangerous in the world, but that doesn’t mean firms must accept high levels of risk. New construction safety technology provides several ways to address and minimise worksite hazards, pushing the industry toward a safer future.
1 – Building Information Modelling
The most valuable construction safety technologies are those that eliminate hazards before they even arise. Building information modelling (BIM) is the most prominent and of these innovations.
BIM is a type of software where architects and other construction project stakeholders can design, share and test virtual models of buildings during the planning stages. Because these interactive 3D models provide a more in-depth look, they make it easier to spot issues that could create hazards during construction. Many BIM platforms also include clash detection features that automatically scan for problems and alert users when they find them.
Workplace safety authorities worldwide have recognised BIM’s potential for risk prevention, citing its transparency
and ease of information sharing. As clash detection brings more attention to potential hazards and cloud support makes communicating strategies easier, teams can make more effective prevention plans.
BIM also significantly impacts project efficiency, which can minimise hazards. Addressing clashes can prevent rework, resulting in fewer hours spent on the worksite. There are fewer chances for employees to get injured as a result.
2 – Smart Helmets
Wearables are another essential part of construction safety technology today. These devices are most familiar in the form of consumer products like smartwatches and fitness trackers, but several commercial-grade, industry- specific options exist, too. One of the most relevant for the construction industry is the smart helmet.
Smart helmets use similar technology to fitness trackers, employing sensors that detect various bodily functions. That can be anything from heart rate to perspiration to body temperature. As the sensors compare these readings to normal baselines, they can detect when a worker may be in danger of overexerting themselves.
When smart helmets detect dangerous body temperatures or heart rate spikes, they can alert the workers wearing them and their managers. These alerts can come as an audible sound, a notification on their phones or both. Employees can then take a break to prevent overexertion and managers can check in to ensure they’re okay.
These alerts are helpful because bodily reaction injuries can be difficult to detect otherwise until it’s too late. Workers may not realise they’re getting too hot or working too hard until they’re already exhausted. Using hard data to inform breaks instead of subjective feelings is a more effective way to prevent these injuries.
3 – Connected Work Boots
Other wearables than smart helmets can provide similar health and safety benefits for construction teams. The same Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity that enables smart helmets can appear in other pieces of PPE. Connected work boots are a notable example.
Boots may not be ideal for overexertion monitoring, but they can track employees’ movements. Location trackers can detect when workers get close to a ledge or slippery surface, then alert them so they can stay alert and avoid the hazard. Over time, this location data can also reveal where workers spend the most time, highlighting areas that deserve the most attention in injury prevention planning.
Pressure sensors in these boots can detect shocks from falls, slips or similar injuries. When that happens, the shoes can alert nearby workers or managers so they can respond to the incident faster. These quicker responses lead to improved health outcomes.
A less obvious advantage of wearables like smart boots and connected helmets is they replace familiar PPE. As a result, they don’t require special training to start using on worksites, encouraging higher adoption.
4 – IoT Sensors
IoT connectivity enables other cutting-edge construction safety technologies, too. In addition to wearables, construction sites can implement IoT sensors as standalone devices throughout the worksite or on heavy equipment. This site-wide connectivity has several safety advantages.
Location sensors on heavy machinery can communicate with those in workers’ smart boots or helmets to warn them of impending collisions. If connected to the vehicles’ steering controls, they can even enable emergency braking to prevent these accidents. This communication is a crucial safety advantage on busy worksites where it may be hard to see incoming pedestrians or vehicles otherwise.
IoT maintenance sensors can diagnose potential machine issues before they fail. These early warnings let construction firms ensure their heavy equipment always remains in
top condition. Consequently, they’ll prevent machine malfunctions that could endanger equipment operators
or other nearby workers.
Other IoT devices can monitor for environmental hazards like carbon monoxide. If these hazards near dangerous levels, the sensors alert employees across the worksite, enabling quick, effective evacuations. As with other IoT tracking solutions, these devices’ data will reveal trends about where the most hazards occur over time, informing long-term workflow improvements.
5 – Drones
Other construction safety technologies protect employees
by removing the need to enter potentially hazardous situations. BIM can help in that regard by addressing safety clashes before construction begins, but other technologies like aerial drones continue to provide those benefits throughout the project lifecycle.
Site inspection is critical in construction safety, but inspectors must get close to hazards to see them in a traditional workflow. Drones provide a safer solution by letting firms scan the site for potential threats without being physically present. That way, they can identify and record hazards to inform safer workflow adjustments without putting themselves in danger.
Drones may improve the accuracy of these inspections, too. Because they can fly and have rotating cameras, they can provide angles of the worksite that inspectors couldn’t see otherwise. These new perspectives make it easier to spot and quantify on-site hazards.
As construction begins, managers can keep using drones to survey the project. Drones’ remote accessibility lets them ensure productivity and offer updates to key stakeholders without increasing the number of people on the worksite. This helps prevent hazards that may arise from crowding.
Another way technology can create distance between workers and hazards is by automating the most dangerous tasks. Construction robots are a new but increasingly viable option for firms looking to mitigate labour shortages and prevent injuries.
Robots can automate tasks like placing steel beams
or carrying heavy loads. Working with heavy materials like this poses risks to human workers, who can
strain themselves if they lift too much or use improper lifting techniques. Leaving the work to robots instead prevents the risk of human error leading
to musculoskeletal injuries.
As robots automate these workflows, human employees will have more time to focus on other tasks. These reduced workloads can help lower employee stress, helping workers pay more attention to what they’re doing. Human error in different workflows will be less likely, leading to fewer injuries.
While construction robotics is a fairly limited technology today, it’s advancing quickly. In the near future, these machines could automate a broader range of tasks, including bricklaying, welding and demolition. The most hazardous parts of construction won’t have to include human workers, making the industry a much safer place.
7 – Virtual Reality
Human error is one of the most common causes of workplace injuries in any sector, playing a role in almost all accidents and exposures to harmful substances. Better training can minimise the chances of employees making these mistakes and new technologies can improve training. Virtual reality (VR) is one of the most promising of these innovations.
VR is most popular as a gaming technology, but its immersive virtual environments make ideal training situations. Construction firms can use these headsets to place new hires in lifelike recreations of the work site. They can then learn vital skills and workplace procedures without being in harm’s way.
Because VR offers an immersive but controlled environment, it ensures training sessions are engaging but safe. Workers can get a feel for what it’s like to be on the job site before encountering actual hazards. That way, once they start working in potentially risky areas with dangerous tools, they already have the experience they need to stay safe.
VR’s fun factor can also play a role in worker safety. The novelty of VR makes these training sessions more engaging, which leads to better knowledge retention. As a result, VR-trained workers may learn safety steps faster than those in conventional hiring processes.
8 – Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) is a similar but distinct construction safety technology. Instead of placing users in a 360°, entirely immersive digital environment, AR overlays virtual elements over users’ view of the real world, often through smart glasses. These digital overlays can provide critical safety information to employees as they work.
AR glasses can display blueprints or step-by-step instructions for workers to reference without having to turn away from their work. Having this crucial information so accessible prevents human errors like overlooking an important safety step or making a mistake that would require rework.
The ability to pull up instructions while working can also streamline the employee onboarding process. New hires can use AR guides to work safely without needing an experienced employee to oversee them. As a result, more recent workers can stay safe while others can focus on their own tasks, helping the entire workforce prevent errors.
AR glasses could also serve as helpful communication systems. If they connect with other devices and sensors throughout the site, these gadgets could show IoT-driven safety alerts in workers’ fields of view, ensuring they see them.
9 – Exoskeletons
Exoskeletons offer a less familiar but equally disruptive innovation for construction site safety. These wearable robotics support users’ limbs and backs as they work. This support helps employees accomplish more without putting more strain on their bodies, preventing musculoskeletal injuries.
Employees moving heavy materials can use exoskeletons to carry heavier loads. Even if they don’t need to move too much at once, the extra support these technologies provide will prevent injuries from minor but repeated strains. As the construction workforce ages, preventing these long-term conditions is becoming increasingly important.
Similarly, exoskeletons can support employees’ arms as they work overhead or offload stress from their legs if they must work while crouching. While these movements may not seem dangerous, they can lead to long-term health issues that people often don’t notice until it’s too late. Prevention is key and exoskeletons enable that prevention.
Despite sounding futuristic, several exoskeleton models are already available for construction teams. These range from full-body suits to leg supports to gloves that improve grip strength. Regardless of a team’s specific needs, there’s likely an exoskeleton to fit them.
10 – Artificial Intelligence
A list of disruptive technologies would only be complete by mentioning artificial intelligence (AI). AI is one of the most influential and versatile tools today across many industries – construction is no exception.
As construction teams use more IoT technologies, AI can analyse the resulting data to suggest long-term improvements. AI models can scan video surveillance and photos to detect what factors indicate the most hazardous conditions on a job site. They can then suggest potential ways to address these hazards based on historical safety trends.
Similarly, AI models can analyse incident reports from past projects to identify common threads between them. Because AI is typically better at detecting trends in data, it may be able to find repeated issues humans may miss. Construction firms will then see how and where they must change their policies or workflows to protect workers better.
AI becomes increasingly accurate the more data it has to analyse. Consequently, the more construction firms employ it – especially in conjunction with other technologies – the more relevant and practical insights it will deliver.
Best Practices for Using Construction Safety Technology
These 10 construction safety technologies can revolutionise work site safety. However, businesses must realise that technology – although powerful – is just a tool. As such, its effectiveness at delivering these safety benefits depends on how adopters use it.
One of the most important factors to consider with these technologies is their cost. While many construction firms are interested in new technology, 45% cite limited financial gains in the short term as their greatest barrier to investing in it. These devices are expensive, but focusing on long-term gains over the near term is essential.
As construction teams reduce accidents, they’ll save money they’d otherwise spend on workers’ compensation and lost productivity. Consequently, these technologies will save money over time despite their upfront costs. Firms can make the most of this by starting with only whichever technology will provide the largest improvements for them, then slowly implementing more as they see a return.
User education is another important factor, as tools are only as effective as employees’ ability to use them. The more automated features a device has, the better, as that will minimise workers’ role in implementation. Still, companies should inform their employees about the new technologies they’re using and offer hands-on training with them.
Finally, as construction sites add more connected devices, they must also increase their cybersecurity. IoT endpoints can leave once-innocuous equipment vulnerable to hacking, so educating users on best security practices like strong password management is crucial. Encrypting device communication, segmenting networks and keeping all endpoints up-to-date will also help.
Construction Safety Technology Can Change the Industry
When properly applied, these 10 technologies can dramatically reduce construction site accidents. As more companies implement them, the industry as a whole will move past its historical trends of injuries and fatalities.
Technology alone isn’t the only factor in construction safety, but it’s a significant one. If enough firms can capitalise on it, it will change the industry for the better.