The construction industry is notoriously one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. In 2019, more than 5,000 construction workers died on the job. Overall, construction accounts for 20 percent of all worker fatalities in private industry, or one in five deaths, in that same year.
The most commonly-cited cause of injuries and deaths in construction is a fall, but a lot of workers also suffer from more long-term effects of the sometimes back-breaking labor they have to do on a daily basis. Workers often complain about chronic pain.
Companies are seeking to reduce the risks that come with working in construction, especially now that there is a great demand for laborers within the industry. Millions of construction workers are needed to be hired, and companies have every incentive to take care of their employees.
More companies have been investing in various technologies that can improve the safety of workers in construction sites across the United States.
Wearables — from Smartwatches to Exoskeleton
The utilization of wearables in construction has been increasing over the years. According to the Chamber of Commerce, almost a quarter of all contractors in the construction industry is expected to use wearable technology by 2023.
Moreover, there are different types of wearable technology that are currently being explored. The most common right now is smartwatches and smart fitness bands. These devices are meant to monitor the activities of workers throughout the day while logging their health data. However, one of the most important features of smartwatches is the ability of the technology to detect falls.
Because falls are one of the leading causes of injuries in the construction industry, a device that could determine an accident and then alert others is integral. Once the incident has been confirmed, the smartwatch will notify contacts and emergency services. It has the potential to save lives.
Another technology that has the potential to drastically improve safety in construction are exoskeletons.
The nature of construction works puts workers at risk of experiencing long-term health consequences. The strain of carrying heavy loads regularly can lead to injuries, especially in the shoulders and back. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that construction workers are up to 16 percent more likely to suffer from the musculoskeletal disorder than any other laborers across all industries.
Exoskeletons have sensors and motors that assist construction workers who need to carry heavy objects across the site. The technology achieves this by redistributing the weight of the load, taking the strain off of the task. The worker maintains a proper posture and becomes safe from the injuries that come from lifting various construction materials.
Digital but Immersive Training Sessions
There are risks that come with working in construction, but a lot of accidents within the industry occur because of carelessness. Previous research discovered that 90 percent of work-site accidents were due to unsafe behaviors and environments. If people are more careful and if everyone follows health and safety guidelines, fewer injuries and deaths will occur.
Augmented Reality (AR) is already used for immersive but safe training sessions in manufacturing. In construction, AR can be used to create interactive digital scenarios that better represent real-life circumstances but without risks. For example, instead of watching videos or jumping immediately to hands-on coaching, the worker can test operational knowledge of heavy equipment for construction using AR.
There are different AR glasses and headsets available from different renowned tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, and Qualcomm.
Predicting Tragedy Before It Happens Using Data
The construction site generates troves of new data every day. If all information, regarding the site and activities within, are collected and then processed, much can be gleaned.
Companies can use predictive analytics to utilize data and foresee potential accidents way before they happen. Through this technology, construction managers can intervene and place measures to prevent the incident from occurring.
Previous research has already proven that, when used properly, predictive analytics can provide an almost perfect accuracy.
One recent survey found that the majority of architecture, engineering, and construction firms are either already utilizing (29 percent of respondents) or planning in the next two years (60 percent) to utilize predictive analytics to mitigate risks. The tool also has the capacity to improve productivity, budgeting and finances, and project outcomes.
The construction industry has the responsibility to keep workers safe, and different technologies can improve worker safety on-site. Many construction companies have already started investing in different devices that can significantly reduce the occurrence of work-related accidents and injuries among construction workers.