The Wearable Technology Improving Construction Workers’ Safety
Workplace technology reduces fatalities by as much as 8%, according to EHS Today. There are currently around 150,000 accidents on construction sites every year, so it’s crucial that they adopt technology to lower this figure. Wearable technology is particularly useful as it is multifunctional and practical. But what is the best wearable tech for construction workers and how does it improve employee safety?
Smart watches are one of the easiest safety tools construction workers can use. They play a vital role in keeping workers safe as they monitor activity levels and the health status of employees. They can therefore be used as a preventative measure. The latest smart watches track heart rhythms, heart rate, and blood pressure. If they identify an alarming issue, employers can step in, stop work, and ensure their workers are checked out by a medic before they return to their job. Smart watches also make workers trackable, so they can never get lost or injured on a construction site without someone coming to help.
Safety sensors & clips
Wearable sensor clips use radio frequency identification (RFID) to keep a watchful eye on construction workers. They are designed to automatically go off and alert the entire site when an emergency happens, such as when a worker has a fall. Falls are the leading cause of death on construction sites, so this simple piece of technology could save hundreds of lives each year. Workers can also press a button to set the warning system off if they identify a hazard. A great example of how this technology is keeping construction workers safe was demonstrated by Gilbane Building Co. A worker noticed a gas leak and pushed the warning alarm. This meant the whole site was evacuated and everyone was kept safe while the gas leak was dealt with.
Safety sensors can also be used to protect construction workers from dangerous on-site vehicles. Every year, 40,000 injuries occur on construction sites due to poor vehicle management. Being struck by a car is bad enough but when large vehicles, such as trucks are involved, there can be devastating consequences. According FVF Law ‘the weight and size of these vehicles can have a significant impact on the severity of injuries’. Driver error, loading issues, and vehicle malfunction often play a role in these types of accidents. To prevent accidents from happening, sensors can be added to wearable technology, such as belts and hats. These sensors detect when a hazardous vehicle is close by and alerts the employee so they can move to safety.
Fractures are the most common foot injury experienced by construction workers. It’s also common for these workers to have generalized pain and bunions. Smart and connected safety boots can call for instant help when they detect an injury. This is done via sensors placed in the soles of the boots. Another crucial part of connected work boots is their GPS compatibility. It’s common for construction workers to work on their own or in the dark. GPS protects these individuals and ensures their location and safety is known at all times.
Hard hats are designed to withstand blows and shocks. But today’s connected hard hats are capable of doing a whole lot more than protecting employees’ heads. Almost 50% of construction workers say they’ve felt tired while working. This is dangerous as it puts them at risk of microsleeping. Microsleeping is a brief sleep where the individual appears to be awake but their brain has switched off. Accidents and injuries are likely to happen as a result of microsleeping. But connected hard hats can detect when microsleep is going to occur before it happens. This tells workers that it’s time to take a break and helps to keep them safe.
A construction worker’s role involves strenuous physical activity which can put them at risk of overheating. Research shows that summer is particularly dangerous for construction workers as one study found that 75% of construction site deaths occurred during June, July, and August. Winter is also problematic for construction workers as they are prone to hypothermia and frostbite. Smart outerwear jackets measure the body temperature of construction workers using sensors. They then assess whether it is safe for them to continue working. They can also be programmed to adjust the temperature to help keep the wearer’s internal body temperature stable.
Augmented reality goggles
Augmented reality (AR) safety goggles play a big role in keeping construction sites safe. First of all they can be used to provide a realistic training environment. Training like this will pick up errors that are likely to happen for real on site and rectify them before a worker gets out into the field. Another big benefit of AR safety goggles is that they provide a hands-free solution. It’s common for workers to switch between various tasks, such as drawings, specifications, and phone calls. AR means they can safely do these tasks without having to step away from what they’re working on. Construction workers also find AR useful as it can highlight hazards. A superimposed building plan can show workers where danger zones are on site so they can ensure they avoid them while working.
Exoskeletons are designed to support construction workers by providing additional strength to them. Workers can wear a full body robotic-type suit or specific parts designed to aid certain parts of the body. The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America reports that back injuries are the most common type of injury experienced by construction workers. Improper lifting techniques, heavy items, and frequent pushing and pulling can all lead to back pain. An exoskeleton back brace forces the wearer to stand and lift objects in a safe way, meaning the worker’s back is fully supported and less susceptible to injury.
Construction sites are a dangerous place to work. Thankfully, modern technology is rapidly making them a safer place to be and is helping to keep on-site workers as protected as possible.