I am always on the lookout for what is happening in technology and construction, especially related to the digital world. On that quest, it is hard to ignore some of the amazing advances in construction safety!
I thought I would call out some of the categories I have been seeing major progress in, even if it doesn’t directly relate to DigiBuild (yet).
You guessed it! Drones are one of the most popular new tools used in the construction industry. These unmanned vehicles are already being used for site surveying, inspections and creating promotional videos.
What you might not have considered is that drones are also being used to make the construction site safer since they can easily conduct inspections in hard to reach locations and identify potential hazards.
Contractors can also use drones to monitor workers to ensure that every employee is working safely. They are also being used to take photographs as the construction work progresses. These photos can be used to create models that are used to keep every worker informed of the changing work conditions as the construction progresses.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Every day construction industry workers are put in severe environments, such as limited and small spaces, great heights, or other dangerous controlled environments. The adoption and use of virtual reality in the construction industry is helping reduce the number of accidents that occur during training sessions and in real-world applications. VR can also eliminate the fear that is associated with operating the heavy construction machinery and equipment.
Augmented reality is especially useful in highlighting hazards in complex areas of a project. This technology allows managers to identify all the risky and most dangerous points in the construction schedule. In the future, it is expected that both augmented reality and virtual reality will be used to scan physical buildings against design which will help minimize risks and enhance the overall quality of construction.
Many construction companies are already using site sensors that can monitor various aspects of the construction site such as dangerous noise levels, extreme temperatures, and volatile organic compounds to help protect the workers. These smart site sensors are usually mounted throughout the construction site and can alert the employees promptly whenever there is a significant risk.
Robotics is changing how we build.
Now construction robots can help with some of the most dangerous tasks on the site.
Specialized robots are used in certain risky welding situations.
There are robots that work alongside humans to lift and move heavy loads or take on mundane tasks, like tying rebar and bricklaying.
Driverless vehicles move supplies and smart robots use imaging to uncover errors and dangers.
They can discover problems early on and make a job safer and more profitable.
Anyone seen Spot the dog from Boston Dynamics?! A robot dog walking around the construction site is no longer the stuff of fantasy.
Stay Safe Apps
The emergence of mobile applications has transformed every aspect of our daily lives and is now improving safety in the construction industry. These applications allow employees to start timed sessions before they begin a period of lone work for better monitoring. This can include triggered GPS tracking and a countdown which is visible to anyone that can access the hub. There is also a panic button that allows workers to send an instant alarm in case they are in potential danger and need urgent assistance. A “Man Down Feature” monitors employee movement and will send a distress call if the worker doesn’t move for a prolonged period of time.
Social Distancing Technology
Social distancing technology uses the latest advancements, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technology, to identify areas where workers are not maintaining a safe working distance from each other.
These technologies help supervisors monitor locations on worksites where workers are congregating during breaks or where tasks require too many workers to be in one spot together.
With the information, employers can remind workers of social distancing guidelines or redesign workspaces or shifts to limit who is in the same space at the same time.
This same technology can also alert workers, in real-time, in the moment when they’ve moved in too close to others so adjustments can be made.
Smart Personal Protective Equipment
Smart PPE, or smart wearable systems, refers to PPE that connects to the internet and other devices, like software or tablets, to deliver real-time safety information. You can think of it as PPE that not only minimizes exposure to hazards, but also collects data, sends notifications, and automatically adjusts to internal and external conditions.
Smart helmets use meta sensors to evaluate information and protect wearers. Smart helmets detect impact, free falls, temperature, humidity, brightness, carbon dioxide and more. The chips in smart helmets can be programmed in many ways to improve safety. They can insert GPS tracking systems to map workers’ location on large construction sites or at sparsely populated oil refineries. Helmets can also be programmed to warn wearers with an alarm if they are close to hazards.
Smart safety eyewear adds benefits beyond traditional safety glasses, especially on hazardous work sites. Data can be delivered inside the eyewear in a display in the corner of the lens so the wearer can monitor changing data. Smart tech safety glasses could also prevent people from entering a hazardous area if they are not wearing the glasses.
Smart safety gloves are also continuing to advance. Near-field communication (NFC) chips built into the gloves allow users to connect with information on their phone or tablet. The gloves are customized to communicate with machines. As infrastructure adapts over time, the data transmitted by NFC chips can also be changed. NFC chips in gloves can allow users to scan data sheets and access information, such as the safety of chemicals and compounds
Some wearables are designed to work in tandem, say a safety vest and a hard hat that integrates GPS, sensors, real-time locating systems and wearable computers. The vest could have a kinetic charger while the hard hat could have a solar charger to power them. The smart clothing can also monitor vital signs such as skin temperature, heart rate, and respiration rate.
With wearable, smart PPE, workers can feel confident knowing that their colleagues or supervisors will be notified promptly in case of an accident.
Large Equipment Technology
Technology isn’t just helping with small equipment that your team members use and wear, it is also being utilized more and more in larger equipment. Here are a few examples:
One way that construction equipment continues to advance is through payload weighing, which gives construction companies the ability to monitor material moved on a worksite.
This technology offers onboard weighing systems and real-time feedback in the cab. This helps operators hit exact loading targets, see bucket and truck load weights, and track key performance indicators like daily production tonnage, truck load counts, tons/hours, tons/fuel burned, and more.
The technology can help eliminate time consuming trips to the scale, helping to improve productivity and increase operator efficiency, all while driving down costs and creating a safer job site.
Integrated Grade Control Systems
The second technology impacting construction equipment today is grade control systems. Technology providers are partnering with manufacturers to deliver advanced grade control with no external masts or cables. This can reduce costs and risk of theft or damage to the equipment.
A telematics system can provide machine diagnostics alerts that help prevent downtime, theft, and misuse.
Telematics that allow a machine to communicate vital information to fleet managers and equipment owners. Technology can remotely track and create reports for data such as location, fuel consumption, and machine operation.
Besides the obvious safety benefits, other benefits to the industry include increased productivity, greater efficiency, and heightened security of the operations.