Technology is constantly on the move. We use it for a myriad of different things, most of them intended to make our lives easier or more fun. One of the many uses of technology, however, is to ensure health and safety—and call us biased—but we think that’s the most important one.
Health tech, of course, is an enormous industry that’s dedicated to curing people, preventing disease, and healing all manner of ills. Safety tech perhaps flies under the radar a little more, but it’s vital—particularly in dangerous lines of work and hazardous workplaces such as construction sites.
There have recently been some new and exciting advances in safety-related technology, running the gamut from drones to intricate robotic arms. Here are a few of the trends and updates you should be aware of.
Wearable safety technology
Fitbits, move over—wearable technology can do much more than just tell you how many calories you’ve burned. Safety wearables come in many different forms, and they allow safety software and programs to collect data and test for some hazards right at the source.
A device that’s kept on a worker’s person is able to detect and warn of any incidents or impending incidents that it picks up on, and makes it easy to spread awareness of issues throughout the workforce. It also allows employers (and safety software) to more accurately track behaviors of workers, allowing them to pinpoint issues and weak points.
The following are a few examples of wearable safety tech becoming useful on worksites:
This category covers any wearable device that gives workers warning or feedback by monitoring their actions, vitals, or movements. For example, smart hard hats that vibrate or make a noise if the wearer falls into a microsleep, or wristbands that monitor vital signs and send out an alert if the wearer needs help.
The benefits of such devices in the safety sphere are quite obvious. They make their users aware of danger in situations where it may be overlooked, and collect data to reduce the number of incidents in the future.
Think of this tech as a personal, wearable “canary in the mineshaft.” It’s no longer useful only for warning users of dangerous fumes—today, it can help avoid other dangers including rising temperatures and physical hazards that users might knock their heads on.
Being aware of environmental hazards is hugely important for those working on construction sites and the like. Environmental monitors bring the warnings as close as possible to those who need to hear them—and they aren’t just for worksites, either!
Comfort and performance tech
These handy devices increase the wearer’s comfort and performance and while this is perhaps not as crucial as warning them of toxic fumes, it can make a huge difference in productivity, happiness, and, in the long run, safety. For example, heated construction jackets can not only take the chill off a cold site but also prevent hypothermia. Virtual reality goggles can enhance performance for project managers and other employees by overlaying blueprints on the building itself. The possibilities are endless!
We’re not talking about a construction site of robots with nary a human in sight—not yet, anyway. However, there are ways in which construction robotics can reduce the load of labor, particularly for tasks which are risky or repetitive.
There are many different benefits the construction industry can reap from taking advantage of robotic advances—lower costs, higher efficiency, simplified logistics and more. Here are a few of the robots you might meet on a construction site:
- Masonry robots, like the SAM100 that can perform the repetitive task of brick-laying.
- Heavy-lifting robots that are more agile than cranes. They can operate in restricted spaces and collaborate with human coworkers. MULE, by the same creators of SAM, is an example of these handy robots.
- Drones are a great example of robotic use in construction, surveying, measuring and other purposes—and there’s more on those later.
- 3D printing has many uses in construction, and robots with 3D printing capabilities are being used to create all kinds of items on a worksite.
- Demolition robots can be remote-controlled, which is a big asset for something as unpredictable and potentially dangerous as demolition.
Public safety drones
These eyes in the sky are useful in more ways than just delivering Amazon packages. The public safety sector and the construction industry can benefit hugely from these flying bits of tech. One of their primary purposes is surveillance, and the fact that they can perform it without taking humans into certain situations gives them an edge in safety scenarios.
The following situations benefit hugely from the use of safety drones:
Hostage situations or stand-offs
Walking into a hostage situation is one of the most dangerous things a law enforcement officer can do. Sending in a drone instead can allow agencies to gather information that’s essential to achieving the best outcome.
Search and rescue
Someone being lost is a terrifying situation, and time is truly of the essence in a search and rescue scenario. The help a drone can provide is quite obvious: more eyes in the sky, and ones which are more nimble than helicopters. They can be outfitted with heat-sensitive technology to make it even easier to spot lost people.
A drone is just about the best way to conduct surveillance.
They can be used in many different situations, from military operations to work sites, checking out the area and evaluating hazards before humans enter.
Assessing construction sites is becoming a common use for drones. They can provide accurate measurements of buildings and projects, and can also be used for safety purposes. When a collapse happens, for example, knowing the extent of the damage and the location of any survivors is hugely helpful.
There are clearly many uses for drones in the safety sphere. Gathering information is one of the most crucial ways to improve safety outcomes—we have designed our safety management software to facilitate the collation of data, and drones are adept at collecting it.
Mobile safety tech
Wearables are one thing, but there are other mobile safety devices changing the face of safety on the worksite which are well worth mentioning. They range from things the size of small vehicles to little things you can easily hold in your hand, and allow employers to gather information, issue warnings, and improve efficiency. They bring protective measures closer to the action, and can work with safety software for a much safer site.
Bionic builders (exo suits)
Imagine Iron Man, but as a builder. Exo suits fall between mobile tech and wearables, and can offset and reduce some of the physical stresses endured by construction workers, preventing injury. They are worn over the limbs, and can basically enhance some human capabilities.
This includes objects such as self-driving construction vehicles, the masonry robots mentioned above, and other “set it and forget it”-style constructions tools. Automation can aid efficiency and reduce instances of human error—some of which have safety-related consequences.
Whether attached to workers, to buildings under construction or to machinery, sensors in construction are hugely beneficial in keeping sites safe. They transfer real-time data and can alert workers or managers to things such as toxic chemicals, inclement weather, and even unstable sections of a build. Combined with safety software, they can use long-term data collection to identify patterns and pinpoint where changes should be made for a safer work environment.
All in this together
All of these wonderful advances don’t stand alone. They can combine in myriad ways to create safer worksites, and if that’s not a good use of technology then we don’t know what is!
Tech isn’t taking over in the construction industry—there will always be a human touch needed. However, it can contribute to making work safer and more efficient, and can move people from menial roles to those that involve more human comprehension.