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How to Improve Worksite Safety With Technology

The following is a guest post by construction industry blogger Megan Wild.

Technology improves our lives by making us more efficient – for the most part.

It also offers us a measure of convenience, like the kind smartphones provide. In the case of mobile devices, they allow us to carry the equivalent of a computer in our pocket. At any time, we can connect to others or to the Web, or take advantage of a long list of resources on a relatively small device. Just two decades ago, this was absolutely unheard of.

Still, there are several ways in which technology is used that we don’t always consider. We might take it for granted, or overlook its purpose in a particular area.

That statement certainly applies to how technology is used in the workplace to improve personal safety. For example, a forklift might employ an automated computer system that applies the brakes when it doesn’t detect a driver behind the controls. You would never notice such a thing exists until you were actually involved in a situation where the machine would need to activate this safety feature.

Of course, there are more obvious uses for technology in the workplace, especially on a construction site. Some of them are cutting edge, and won’t be adopted on a wide scale for quite some time.

Wearable Monoxide Detectors

Sometimes, danger isn’t inherently visible, especially on a worksite. Carbon monoxide can pose a serious threat to workers, especially those in confined spaces. Due to the silent nature of this deadly gas, it’s entirely possible for someone to sustain a great deal of damage to their body and lungs before anyone notices there is a problem.

However, wearables are currently being developed that can detect carbon monoxide sooner. These detectors can be embedded into pretty much any type of wearable. Currently, the plan is to include the detection technology inside hard hats. Since workers aren’t supposed to be on-site without wearing their hats anyway, this would ensure they are always protected even from silent dangers like carbon monoxide.

Automated Mobile Reporting and Analytics

Mobile devices include a variety of internal hardware that makes them useful for safety on the worksite. For instance, they can be used collectively as a monitoring system to report the current location of workers in real-time, thanks to integrated GPS. Furthermore, a system like this could be used to calculate potential accidents before they happen. It can also be used to supply important information to the site manager, so they can ensure workers are remaining productive and safe, even remotely.

If you’re worried about employees being distracted during work hours, you can simply issue them an enterprise-owned tablet when they clock in. There are many different sizes and types, some of which were constructed with a durable and rugged design so they can withstand a great deal of wear and tear.

The Smart Helmet

One Los Angeles startup called DAQRI has developed a smart helmet which makes use of augmented reality. Through a digital user interface, internal cameras and a multitude of sensors, it can relay safety information to the wearer in real-time. It can also load existing safety data, save new info and share relevant updates.

As the wearer moves around a worksite, the helmet will analyze and identify and warn about potential safety hazards. Just imagine how many accidents could be avoided if workers were equipped with these helmets at all times.

Once a safety hazard has been identified, the related profile can be stored and uploaded to a central system, and then shared with other workers nearby. In this way, it also encourages team members to monitor one another in order to prevent tragic accidents.

Drones and UAVs Simplify Surveillance

When superintendents, safety directors or site managers need to check up on a project, the most common way is to physically walk the whole job site. This can be particularly dangerous, and it can expose those individuals to a variety of hazards.

The danger can be alleviated, however, through the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Drones can be operated remotely, and can be used to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance tasks. Supervisors can navigate an area and record video, take photos and identify safety problems without ever stepping foot on the project site.

As an added bonus, some UAVs are capable of carrying heavy loads or materials. This can be especially useful during high-rise projects, where materials need be transported several floors up.

3-D Printing for Modular Construction

Building a new structure comes with a whole slew of risks. Some of the dangers associated with traditional construction can be eliminated by using modular construction strategies, particularly through 3-D printing.

3-D printing involves converting digital files or blueprints into physical objects in the real world. The most common form of the 3-D printer is one that creates small objects out of plastic. However, printers can be adapted to create objects out of any material, including steel or metal.

Enterprise-ready 3-D printers can be used to create entire prefabs, which can be pieced together to create a final structure. Not only does this strategy reduce the risk of safety hazards, but it can also trim down project costs considerably. Entire buildings have been developed using 3-D printing, so it’s not a stretch to claim this technology will be relied on heavily in the near future.

Technology Can Be a Tremendous Aid on the Worksite

As you can see, there are a lot of ways technology can be used to enrich safety on the worksite. That said, we didn’t even scratch the surface. There are also advancements being made in heavy equipment to increase operator comfort and decrease fatigue, allowing workers to be more efficient. And the improvements don’t stop there. Every day, technology is improving the safety of not only work sites, but also the safety of the building overall. The possibilities are limitless, especially when it comes to mobile devices. Many companies are just now starting to embrace modern technology, which means new processes, software and applications will crop up over time.

Be sure to keep an eye open for new and innovative ways to use technology in the workplace.

Megan_Wild_PicMegan Wild is a construction industry observer, reader, and writer. She enjoys being outside and working on improving her home and helping others with their projects. She writes about her experiences on her blog, Your Wild Home.