There are many industry professionals who believe that too much technology is getting between workers and their jobs and that the reigns need to be pulled in a bit. On the other hand, there are workers and other professionals who feel that technology is adding an incredible amount of value to the sector, and that various construction safety systems are adding a layer of needed safety reporting.
There is no doubt the use of technology is growing in all industries, and the construction industry is no different. While there might be some workers who are nervous about the prospect of having a phone on their person, or a drone flying overhead taking photos or videos of a site, there are many benefits being revealed that will ensure these technologies not only stay, but expand in their work site roles.
Accountability and weaknesses
The first thing workers think of when they consider using phones or drones on the job is accountability. When it comes to cellphone use, or more commonly, smartphone use on work sites, they think of images of safety violations and maybe videos of machinery acting incorrectly. In this instance, this technology has improved accurate safety reporting and made it so site managers can know instantly exactly what is going on and have the situation addressed.
"Taking photos instead of filling out reports saves time and accuracy."
It used to be that workers would have to fill out reports and make sure someone was paying attention. While this practice is not completely out of touch, taking a photo and sending it to the appropriate parties saves time and accuracy.
But this is not limited to smartphones. According to the MIT Technology Review, drones are becoming popular in the construction world as well. Specifically, the Sacramento Kings are in the process of having a new stadium built. Drones fly overhead every day to snap photos of progress. But that is only the beginning of what this flying technology can do.
These photos are not just used to demonstrate progress, but analyzing the site for safety risks and factors that could cause potential errors as well. To some this seems like something out of a science fiction film, but the reality is this technology is probably flying above a construction site near you.
"We highlight at-risk locations on the site, where the probability of having an issue is really high," said Mani Golparvar-Fard, assistant professor of the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed this software, according to MIT Technology Review. "We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made."
Having eyes in the sky may seem invasive to seem workers, as they are being photographed and filmed. But when the focus is on safety and making sure operations are running smoothly, it is easy to see why a project the size of the Sacramento Kings' stadium would choose to incorporate the technology.
When it comes to workers' health, there is no room for error. When employees are injured or stressed, then measures should be taken into account so that workers doesn't put one another at risk. But crew members who are tired or under a great deal of stress might not realize their health is on the line, as their adrenaline may be pushing them through. However, this can create reactionary workers as opposed to proactive employees who feel in control.
According to Construction Global, wearable smart sensors is a new technology that is being considered as a required part of safety equipment, just like harnesses or proper boots. The sensors are not designed to capture a worker's medical history, but identify if they are in an area that is too hot, or if they have a consistent heart rate that needs to be controlled.
Likewise, personal senors can tell if a worker has been on his or feet for too long and needs to take a break. It is true that some workers don't like to be told they need to take a break, but for their own good and safety, they need to.
But these sensors aren't only designed for people. They are intended for specific parts of the job site as well. For example, a sensor can be fastened to a harness and alert a foreman if someone falls or drops an object from a great height. It is easy to assume that someone will be watching, but having the sensor in place could be seen as a fail-safe, and will alert the proper parties at the instant the drop occurs.
While it may seem odd to many drivers, the prospect of driverless trucks is no longer a concept but an actuality. According to The Associated Press, Royal Truck & Equipment, Inc. unveiled its driverless truck, or crash truck. The intention is that this truck would handle the jobs that are the most prone for accidents, such as blacktopping a road, inspecting a bridge or installing a traffic signal.
"Any time a driver can be removed from these vehicles in a very dangerous situation, and if the vehicle's struck, there's nobody inside it to receive the damage or the injuries, that's measuring success," said Robert Roy, president of Royal Truck & Equipment, Inc.
And while these are only a few of the technologies finding their way into the construction industry, it is clear that some professionals are opening their arms and welcoming the new safety features. When it comes to construction, safety always needs to be at the forefront of projects, and it is good to see that professionals across the industry are welcoming technology as a safety resource as well.