No matter how hard organizations work to keep employees safe, construction sites are inherently hazardous environments. Countless workers, power tools, heavy machinery and equipment, and changing materials and structures pose threats and create challenges. Fortunately, technological construction safety advances have made it possible to see what is happening on jobsites across an organization, regardless of geographic location, improving response to incidents and overall site safety.
The Struggle of Managing Construction Safety Risks
For a construction contractor, one key safety goal involves identifying, interpreting and managing potential worksite risks. Construction sites present a unique set of challenges, which is why contractors today are turning to the latest, cutting-edge solutions to help overcome these hurdles. Compared to a stable, predictable factory setting where the risks rarely change because the work environment rarely changes, for example, each construction job site is unique and is constantly evolving. When you consider that general contractors have countless sites and projects to manage simultaneously across wide geographic regions, you begin to understand how information could slip through the cracks without access to automatically collected – and stored – safety data.
How Technology Simplifies Risk Management
There are several unique technologies that can streamline risk management by automating processes, monitoring employees in real-time, and collecting safety data that can be analyzed for trends and behaviors.
- Recording Observations – Contractors are required to follow certain health and safety mandates on every job. Mobile applications allow workers, site superintendents and contractors to record and document safety data and observations from the field via smart devices, streamlining the reporting process. Data recorded in the field as it happens is more robust and reliable than observations remembered at the end of each day or week. Furthermore, tools for workers as well as supervisors allow everyone on site to get involved in the documentation process.
- Tracking Employees – While relatively new in the construction industry, wearable technology is changing the way contractors manage and respond to risk. This technology allows general contractors to see who is on a jobsite and where they are located across multiple projects, to receive real-time alerts for potential injuries or site hazards, and to communicate evacuation alerts in an emergency situation.
- Analyzing Safety Inspection Data – Technology solutions that allow a contractor to gather jobsite workforce and safety incident data and extrapolate insights can improve safety. Knowledge is power, and robust safety data is the first step towards identifying unsafe behaviors or poor safety habits and correcting them through behavioral intervention, one-on-one conversations and larger group safety talks. In addition, by collecting environmental and behavioral observations over time, contractors and risk managers can better identify larger trends, such as the fact that more accidents occur at the end of the project when workers are rushing to finish a project on time, or that more incidents happen at noon. Such information allows the industry to develop more informed and target safety procedures and training programs.
Benefits of Construction Safety Technology
In addition to the above, construction risk management technologies improve response times to potential injuries, limit incident exposure, improve employee morale and prevent expensive, unnecessary insurance costs. A safer job site is a more successful job site; safety and productivity is a feedback loop in which strides in one area facilitate strides in the next area and so on. For example, if real-time safety data from a wearable device allows a safety superintendent to identify a risky behavior such as jumping into a pit versus using the stairs, the superintendent can engage the employee and others in a large conversation about safety. By identifying the risky behavior and modifying it through data, you are mitigating risk.
Fewer injuries means employees can spend more time working, improving productivity. With the right technology in place, construction companies can continue to improve employee satisfaction and retention as well as overall project quality, profit margins, and industry reputation.