Back on February 28 last year, a 30-year-old rigger with a young family was helping a crane driver to move a heavy steel beam at around 4 p.m. whilst working on a ferry hub project at the Barangaroo development.
Tragically, the beam he was moving struck another beam and fell on the man, crushing him to death instantly.
More worryingly still, this was not the only death on a building site last year. Indeed, all up, 35 workers lost their lives in construction throughout 2016 – third only to transport, postal and warehousing (47) and agriculture (44). Overall, the construction sector in 2016 accounted for 12 percent of all serious injuries across the Australian workforce and 19 per cent of fatalities.
To be sure, recent years have seen efforts not just from contractors but also lawmakers to drive safety practices on site. Internationally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created a unified set of safety standards whilst in Australia, we have seen greater alignment in safety regulations across each state. Managers and executives are increasingly being held accountable. New laws in Queensland, for example, enable them to be held liable if their negligence leads to a worker’s death.
Nevertheless, more needs to be done. Indeed, pressure in this area has grown as deadlines become tighter and workers are under pressure to finalise projects faster.
In this regard, Tom Karemacher, VP APAC at Procore Technologies said, technology is helping to drive outcomes on site.
He points to several examples in the wearables space. These include:
- Halo lights – LED based lights which emit 360 degree blasts of light and which improve night-time visibility and provide a light-filled environment in which to work at night.
- Exo-wearables, which will enable workers to wield power tools more easily, reducing the likelihood of back injuries.
- Smart helmets or glasses which can use augmented reality, which can be used for tasks ranging from 3D mapping to seeking assistance from technicians or alerting workers to danger.
- Safety vests which geo-target workers in case of emergency and alert them when they are in a pre-defined danger zone. These can also help to monitor workers’ metabolic rates and other health metrics.
“Wearables are steadily infiltrating organisations across industries,” Karemacher said. “From Fitbits to being able to track where workers are on a jobsite, wearables are shifting how industries and businesses function. In the construction sector, wearables present a real way to reduce the chance of injury on the jobsite, from construction clothing to accessories, all augmented to improve workers’ efficiency and safety on the jobsite.”
In addition, Karemacher says project management software applications are playing a part. In his own company’s case, Karemacher says Procore’s own ‘Observations’, ‘Inspections’ and ‘Incident’ apps provide visibility over all aspects of worker safety. Incidents and Observations integrate root cause analysis fields which allow companies to have insight into what happened as well as why the incident occurred and how this can be avoided. When an incident occurs, teams can document these and data from the combined incidents can be collected and extracted into dashboards so as to help identify risk trends and avoid future accidents.
By its nature, work in the construction sector is dangerous.
Though growing use of technology, project managers and contractors have better tools to help drive safety outcomes on site.