Keeping up with safety regulations in the construction industry can be a daunting task for many managers, especially with an increased demand for speed and pressure to cut corners due to rising costs. The rate of safety violations and worker deaths in construction has historically been on the rise, yet 2017 marked a break in that pattern – construction fatalities decreased by two percent, as more contractors begin to implement technology to streamline processes and meet safety goals.
Today’s construction managers are no longer considering technology a competitive advantage, but rather an operational necessity. More companies can and should learn how to stay on top of training and regulations by leveraging technology to ensure there is an audit trail for everything and prevent costly – and potentially life threatening – accidents. Here is how to do it.
MORE STANDARDIZED TRAINING AND INSPECTIONS
Managers can use project management technology to track when an individual worker was trained, what they were trained on, what they should still be trained on and when they need to be trained next to adhere to safety regulations. Furthermore, the use of automated reminders and notifications helps ensure critical training dates aren’t missed due to human error and absent-mindedness.
Construction managers can also use technology to keep a comprehensive log of other key dates like job site and equipment inspections, warranties, last service dates and lease contracts, ultimately improving documentation accuracy and ensuring inspection deadlines are met in a timely manner. More companies are beginning to do so with one platform as a single source of truth. In the past, it’s been easy to end up with inconsistencies in data because multiple unconnected systems were being used. The trend now is to have a centralized platform to house all records, and if other platforms are needed, they can connect to each other.
ADOPTION OF INTERNET OF THINGS TECH
As the popularity of wearables continues to climb across the U.S., so too does the use of the technology – and other IoT devices like sensors and drones – throughout the construction industry. IoT tech used on construction sites automatically captures data from workers in real time and can prevent violations before they happen.
For example, a recent report from Liberty Mutual Insurance cites overexertion as the number one cause of disabling injuries in the United States. To ensure construction workers don’t overexert themselves, health bands can be used on many job sites to track workers’ heart rates, perspiration, temperature and activity. Meanwhile, technology like wearable safety badges can track a crew’s location in real time and alert workers when they enter a hazardous area, and there are even advanced safety vests being developed to alert highway workers of moving objects (like cars or trucks) that are approaching. Expect to see more IoT advancements like this throughout the construction industry over the course of the next decade.
MORE RELIABLE REPORTING OF SAFETY VIOLATIONS
Workers are often the ones who spot safety issues or violations, yet they may be hesitant to report them or simply forget to make a report at the end of their shift. Using technology, workers can report violations in the span of mere minutes and on the go. Some companies use mobile forms or scannable QR codes as a means to quickly make these reports easily accessible via mobile phones and tablets. Rather than reporting safety violations via pen and paper or offline software, workers can simply scan QR codes with their mobile devices on strategically placed safety signs to start the reporting process.
The data collected via mobile devices can then flow instantly back to a centralized dashboard, so that leadership can monitor trends and implement systematic changes to improve safety standards. The manager can drill the data down to the worker, equipment or incident level in order to get to the root of the issue and isolate the problem. By providing a way for workers to immediately report issues when they find them, instead of requiring them to submit paperwork and wait for a safety officer, companies can significantly speed resolution and create a safer work environment.
USE OF PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS
In the traditionally unpredictable construction industry, big data offers a new opportunity to get ahead of potential issues through predictive analytics. More and more construction firms are now analyzing big data to make better decisions, increase productivity, improve jobsite safety and reduce risks. Technology has advanced to the point where predictive analytics can be used to identify workplace environments, equipment, materials, practices and processes that put workers at risk of injury.
By analyzing their current and historical data, companies can predict the future and make changes ahead of time to address and even completely eliminate workplace hazards. This, in turn, results in a reduction in injuries and can save construction companies hundreds of thousands (even millions) in direct and indirect compensation costs, including insurance premiums.
Due to the risky nature of the field, safety issues are sure to remain a concern for managers on construction sites for years to come. However, leaders can work to mitigate risk by proactively investing in technology to improve safety training, perform timely inspections and even stay ahead of potential job site hazards by leveraging data and IoT tech. By using technology to quickly capture and address safety concerns, the risk of unnecessary injuries can be reduced, decreasing the severity of incidents and reducing costs in the long run.