One of the fastest-growing trends in construction site safety is wearable technology — small electronic devices, even full-body suits, worn by construction workers as part of their clothing or gear. These high-tech devices can alert construction workers and supervisors to dangerous employee practices or on-site hazards that can lead to costly injuries.
Most people already know about popular wearables such as iWatch wristbands, which track fitness data. However, smart equipment is also improving construction sites, boosting productivity while reducing the risk of worker injuries.
The global insurance company American International Group (AIG) calls wearables a “health and safety game changer” that will transform work environments around the world. The wearables transformation means that construction managers must now persuade workers to accept technology that keeps them safer while also raising privacy concerns. At the same time, companies must find ways to store the expensive technology securely.
Is your company prepared for the changes that wearables are bringing to the workplace?
The high cost of Construction worker injury
Industrial Safety & Hygiene News reports that 1 in 10 construction workers are injured on the job every year. Employees suffer back injuries, exposure to harmful fumes, fatigue, sprains and injuries from slips and falls. There are more fatalities, mostly from falls, in construction than in any other industry in the U.S., according to OSHA.
Workers’ compensation costs for construction are already double those of other industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. One recent survey found that U.S. businesses spend more than $1 billion a week, nearly $60 billion per year, on workers’ compensations costs for non-fatal workplace injuries.
Using wearables can keep workers safe
Wearables can alert construction workers and supervisors to dangerous employee practices or on-site hazards. For example, construction workers can don technology- enabled hardhats that allow a 360° view of surroundings, so they can spot hazards lurking behind them. “Smartcaps” have bands inside the hat that record brain waves to monitor fatigue. Exoskeletons, wearable suits that use electric motors, hydraulics and other technologies to pump up workers’ physical abilities for lifting and moving heavy objects, help prevent back and neck injuries.
Other popular wearables include GPS-enabled vests that alert workers with visual or audio feedback when they enter a predefined hazard zone. To prevent overheating, workers can even switch on personal air conditioning vests that circulate water or cool air over the torso. Belt clip sensors alert supervisors when someone trips, slips or falls. Other monitors track exposure to toxic gas and other hazards.
Workers can also wear smart helmets and badges with coded electronic information about each employee’s training and certifications, crucial information needed for on-site safety.
Who uses wearables in Construction?
Large contractors lead the way in adopting wearable technologies, with 21 percent using the devices, according to a 2017 survey conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics. Overall, 13 percent of contractors surveyed reported using wearable devices. Around 82 percent of respondents reported that using wearable devices has a “positive impact on safety” at construction sites.
Managing wearables and workers
Implementing a wearables program on construction sites necessitates adjustments from workers and supervisors. Everyone will need training to use the devices, and managers must learn how to monitor worker usage. Managers may have to address privacy concerns, if some workers don’t like being closely monitored. Emphasizing the enhanced safety benefits of wearables may help override those concerns.
Here at PODS, we understand that construction projects change and evolve. That’s why wearables can be organized and stored in our weather-resistant mobile storage containers for easy access at one or multiple job sites. PODS can drop off containers, and once loaded with your wearables, we can pick them up and deliver them to a new location, suiting each project’s needs. Contact PODS for Business for more information.
Wearables impact the bottom line
Using wearables at construction sites can lead to fewer accidents and workers’ compensation claims, lowering insurance premiums. Pro-active safety measures also result in higher productivity, better employee morale and lower turnover, factors that make any project more profitable. Combined with other commercial solutions, such as on-site storage, construction projects can be completed according to timeline and without injury.