By Amrita Batra
Through implementation of safe work practices, training, and compliance with federal, state, and local regulatory requirements, the construction-related hazards can be identified, controlled, or eliminated.
Safety is the most important part of every construction site. Between heavy machinery, dangerous demolition equipment and dizzying heights, any construction project is fraught with hazards. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in the US, 23 per cent of private sector work-related deaths occurred in the construction industry.
In fact, in recent years, the number of work-related injuries has been on the rise due to the boom of the construction industry with a concurrent decrease in inspections, and companies cutting corners to alleviate mounting competitive costs. Construction also results in many non-fatal injuries that cost companies millions of dollars per year. This makes safety paramount in the industry. While safety measures and precautions can be costly upfront, their ROI can be massive.
Safety training is critical in the construction industry because of the high-risk factor. Dangerous situations are a part of the everyday working environment, which leads to a constant challenge for construction companies to create and deliver effective safety training.
Every year, new trends appear in the industry from safety training to technological advancements. And many of the trends make construction work easier and more efficient, so it is important that construction companies educate and train their employees to be safe on jobsites.
According to a survey by Dodge Data & Analytics, jobsite workers and supervisors agree that onsite training is more valuable than online or classroom instruction. In most cases, showing a worker how to do a job safely and correctly in an actual work setting is better than simply telling them how to execute their craft properly.
For new employees, there are two types of onsite training that should be incorporated into on boarding. The first is a walk-through of responsibilities. This training will demonstrate how a new hire should perform the job and explain why certain procedures are in place. Offering the “why” can dramatically lower a new hire’s potential for cutting corners or inaccurately believing that they can come up with a faster, more effective way to do a task. The second type of training to consider is a buddy system, in which experienced workers spend time enforcing workplace procedures and policies, thus cutting down the risk of a new hire developing unsafe habits.
Further, the training should be ongoing, especially as comfort sets in for seasoned employees; for instance, workers are most prone to injuries and fatalities around noon, when people may become less focused due to lunch or similar break times. Taking the time to introduce staff to new equipment or doing quarterly “refresher” courses can be great ways to offer continuous training that keeps experienced employees engaged, reducing the likelihood of accidents in the long run.
By educating and testing employees outside of their general orientation, site managers and superintendents can avoid indirect costs that are double those of direct ones. These indirect expenses can result from workplace incidents, such as time lost due to work stoppages and investigations, losses associated with recruiting and training new employees, and loss or damage to material property.
When a worker is not trained correctly and supervised, he or she will more than likely not be as efficient in their work. Efficiency costs money, and if a product is not installed correctly the first time, it must be taken out and re-installed. There are inherent risks and exposures involved, depending on those tasks are required to be done again.
Thus, safety observations play a large role in worker behaviour. At the time the observation is made a peer to peer review of that observation and a solution should take place.
A myriad of new technologies are making their way into the construction market and helping to improve worker safety. The technology comes in two main forms: hardware in the form of wearable technology, and software that improves safety alerts and data analysis for long-term improvement. Virtual reality (VR), wearables and drones are gaining acceptance on jobsites and leading to fewer injuries, consequently driving improved safety benefits and cost savings, far outweighing the initial investment.
VR can help create a first-hand, experience-based training that workers and supervisors prefer. The technology can help capture images of existing project conditions and repurpose these images to display training environments that employees and supervisors can “walk through” to identify hazards and safety concerns.
Virtual reality Demo for Safety Training
UAV or Drone Solutions
Exoskeletons in Construction
One of the latest trends in construction safety is wearable technology that streams a worker’s location and status at all times while on site. Many of these wearables are linked to already present check-in/check-out procedures.
While these wearables usually come in the form of lightweight, waterproof badges or sensors that can be worn on belts or vests, there are mobile apps that turn a worker’s existing smartphone into a safety device connected to the cloud, automatically notifying key personnel of an incident.
Many construction companies are also going beyond the common definition of wearables (such as smart watches) to deploy exoskeletons that support a worker’s body by conserving energy and avoiding any extreme strains. Exoskeletons work by transferring the worker’s weight onto the ground or other parts of their body instead of putting pressure on their back or their arms. Overexertion is one of the leading causes of disabling workplace injuries, and can be largely overcome through the use of exoskeletons.
Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) provide project teams with accurate real-time jobsite data. They help supervisors understand the layout where tasks are being performed and where equipment is being used, and whether jobs are being conducted safely through photo/video feeds. According to Goldman Sachs, only 18 per cent of contractors use drones today, and by the end of 2020, it is forecast that one in four firms will use drones on the jobsite.
Achieving sustained improvements in one’s safety culture can be difficult, but these practices and new technologies help reduce error rates and injuries on the job, improving overall job quality and employee safety.