As we’ve written about before, construction is one of the last industries to benefit from automation and information technology. Historically, the only electrical equipment on a job site during construction was installed by highly-trained workers. Today, however, the construction marketplace is rapidly changing: technology has become more widespread at the jobsite, more experienced and trained workers are aging out, and there is a lack of available skilled labor, meaning that workers need to be well-rounded and ready to tackle different tasks that come their way.
As a Senior Electrical Engineer, product reliability and safety are of the utmost importance. As newer, unskilled workers enter the profession, there are ways to provide basic electrical training to support safe, quality service and construction, and it doesn’t need to be overwhelming.
But first, why do we care about electrical/IoT technology training on a construction site? Increasingly, technology is providing real-time safety, location, and asset-monitoring at the jobsite (in addition to emerging sensors for things like concrete-curing feedback). Once installed, these devices are quite robust and survive in the physical environments they are designed for, however, issues can arise if these devices are installed incorrectly, moved, or physically impacted, compromising their environmental seal. If water gets into an AC outlet temporarily, dry it out, turn the power back on and it works; the same is not necessarily true for cutting-edge, advanced sensor technology. So how do we maximize quality while ensuring operability and safety?
Electrical safety does not need to be scary, and it’s important to note this isn’t asking individuals to become experts and design products, but rather to support their teams’ digital adoption efforts and help ensure they are successfully applying new technologies at the jobsite. In an industry where safety is the top priority, and inches can be the difference between life and injury or even death, it is a best practice for every individual on site to know how to install, operate, and keep technology working. With that in mind, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) recently changed its apprenticeship training program to include more technology training.
This new electrical language does not need to be overly technical either, but there is a baseline of understanding that workers can – and should – master to maximize new technologies. Electrical safety is always key, and it’s essential to understand when additional help is needed (e.g. when operating in proximity with high-voltage AC).
Here are three other basics that we will dive into in my next article that will provide some training options available to help your team bridge the gap as cutting-edge technology is adopted at the jobsite:
- Understanding how ESD (electrostatic discharge) and voltage transients can damage electronics. How does lightning at an open jobsite affect technology?
- Understanding use of basic test instruments such as multimeters
- Understanding key concepts of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other wireless devices
The rate of innovation is only increasing, and it’s important that employees are empowered – and educated – to take advantage of the changing construction landscape.