Safety is one of the primary concerns of any project manager or company owner. By its nature, construction is an inherently dangerous industry due to the high physical requirements, difficult environment, dangerous heights and heavy equipment being used. With construction accidents adding around $10 billion annually to total construction costs, avoiding accidents is crucial to the success and well-being of any company.
Project managers are on the front line of job safety. Of course, common sense is the most important requirement on the job site, but emerging technology may be able to help project managers monitor their job site for problems.
Here are four technologies to help improve job site safety:
When Google announced Google Glass in 2012, it was met with mixed reviews, and ultimately Google pulled back production. Despite Google’s hesitance on optical technology, wearable technology is taking off in a big way. One of the most innovative ways this technology is starting to be used is on the construction job site.
Imagine, as a project manager, you can follow the vitals of employees in real time. On a hot day you could monitor if someone is reaching the point of heatstroke. Wearable sensors could alert you if exhaust fumes or airborne contaminants are in the air. There is even technology to sense if an employee is performing repetitive motions that could lead to long-term injury.
Augmented reality helmets, or smart helmets, are another technology being developed. While still in the early stages, there may come a time when workers are accessing a wide range of information through the visor of their hard hat. Los Angeles based company Daqri has developed a smart helmet using the afore mentioned Google Glass technology. This multi-industry helmet looks like something from a science-fiction movie, but this isn’t a toy. So far, Dagri's website lists applications like 4D work instruction, thermal vision, data visualization and real-time video connections with experts.
Unlike the above wearables, the smart watch is the most likely device the average person may already own. Not yet commonly used by construction—mainly due to a lack of construction specific apps—it's highly likely smart watches could be used for a variety of uses. As apps are developed, we may see smartwatches monitoring vitals, used for hands-off communication, monitoring location and altitude, or entering safety data.
The Bird's Eye View
Once again drones are appearing in our blog, and for good reason. The list of practical applications for these devices on construction job sites is growing every year and job site safety is one of the primary reason drones are being implemented. Now project managers can get a bird’s eye view of the site, look for safety concerns, monitor employee and equipment movement, or perform a quick safety inspection from static location.
GPS isn’t a new technology, but how it is being used for job site safety is worth reporting. Devices attached to both workers and equipment can provide a variety of alerts and notifications of possible danger. In equipment, GPS is often used to alert drivers when they are near powerline or utilities. GPS is used to alert management if a vehicle has been idle for long periods of time, which may indicate the driver is in trouble, or if the vehicle has crashed into anything.
Safety Reporting Apps
Most people have a smart phone now and know how to access and use a variety of apps, and now there is a new breed of safety apps appearing each year to monitor job sites. Mobile apps like iAuditor help workers perform inspections, report hazards and send the safety reports. Apps such as Safety Meeting App help companies meet OSHA standards, organize safety meetings and report safety concerns. Project management apps allow operations to keep track of employee locations, send alerts and share safety information.
Which technology the construction industry adopts is still up in the air, much of it still in the early stages or not yet cost-effective, as prices drop and the technology standardizes we may see more and more of these devices on the job site.