Construction sites have inherent risks in their work. Statistics from HSE showing that a total of 144 workers were killed in 2017/2018, with 38 of these fatalities coming from the construction industry.
Whether your staff are expected to work at heights, in cold climates or their jobs include working with hazardous power tools, it's important — and a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 — that employers take all reasonably practicable measures to protect their staff, site visitors, and the public from harm.
While traditional safety measures, like personal protective equipment (PPE), are still necessary and can help sites to be less hazardous places to work, innovations are constantly being made to further boost site safety.
Here are some industry developments and ways to improve safety on construction sites.
Wireless technology and smart devices
Technology is an important tool in many industries, especially relatively high-risk ones like construction. For the construction sector, devices like fire and intruder alarms are viewed as integral to the job and are implemented at each site to keep workers safe. And, with recent technological developments making it possible for these things to be made wireless, it's now easier to look after your staff on site.
Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) training
Under Section 2 (2c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers must provide their employees with adequate training and instruction so they can carry out their jobs in as safe a way as possible. And augmented and virtual reality training are becoming more widely used to train in the construction sector.
While virtual reality is entirely simulated through a headset like a game, augmented reality headsets add text and images to the real world to create an even more immersive and realistic atmosphere for your workers. The biggest advantage of these methods is that it will improve health and safety on site and get your workers more prepared for any common hazards that could occur by creating simulations of them.
Not only will this help employees get to grips with what they should do in these situations, but they can replay these as many times as they want, which isn't always possible in traditional training because of time and resource constraints.
While AR and VR can show staff how to deal with hazards they typically already know about, predictive analytics can be used to look ahead and flag up potential safety concerns on site before they become an issue. This technology combines a range of techniques including data mining, statistics and artificial intelligence to carry out risk analysis and make predictions based on work patterns.
Using this technology can help an employer to anticipate problems and find ways to combat these before they have chance to become problematic. For example, instead of relying on lagging indicators, which are a month-end report of how many and what type of injuries occurred, you can identify and prevent these happening prior to workers going to the site. This technology is still in its early stages, so expect to see plenty more useful applications to arise from it.
Efficient site planning layouts and autonomous equipment
Site layout planning refers to the efficient planning of site space ahead of a construction project and can be the difference between there being lots of unidentified hazards and ones that have been controlled for prevention. While some hazards are easy to spot, construction sites are busy and get messy quickly, so using equipment that can help identify these in the early stages is helpful.
Drones are being more readily used to inspect a jobsite, as it saves workers' time and also removes the risks that come with sending technicians up scaffolding to find these hazards. Drones can also be used to generate 3D models of the site so that you can work out how best to design the layout digitally before enforcing the plans in reality.
Keeping your construction workers safe on site should be a top priority for any employer. And, while traditional health and safety processes can be efficient, it's worth keeping up with innovations that can help you to improve your site safety. Try implementing one of these to save time and resources and keep your staff happy and healthy.
Kelly Friel is digital product manager at tool and PPE experts Zoro.