31st August, 2021
Technology has advanced at record speed over the past 20 years. We've gone from games of snake to running an entire business from your mobile phone. Let's take a look at the remote technology you can use for better construction health and safety.
We have more technology in our pockets these days than we had in an entire office 20 years ago. Our smartphones connect us through wifi, 4G, 5G, Bluetooth, GPS. With this technology, we can connect to the internet, find where we are, share information with people close to us and those far away. Are you reading this on a smartphone? People have gone to space with less technology than you have in your hand right now. Let that sink in!
If you're working in construction, you're probably not building rockets. But you are working in a high-risk industry. You're four times more likely to die and nearly twice more likely to get injured when compared to other workplaces.
The fatal injury rate (1.74 per 100,000 workers) is almost four times the All industry rate.
And you might think that construction misses out on many of the benefits of modern technology. After all, you're not in a high-tech office with superfast broadband and the latest computer systems. You're working in an unfinished building, and you count yourself lucky if you have a roof over your head half the time!
But we don't need a fancy office to access the latest in technology these days. We have the power to get to the moon in our pockets. You already have the technology you need for better construction health and safety. Let's see what technology you have and how you can use it.
A pocket calculator or even a USB-C charger has more computing power than the best computers used to send astronauts to the moon
Almost every location in the UK can get internet access, even if some areas are faster than others. Yes, in some very remote areas of the UK, you might struggle to get a reliable mobile data connection. But even in those cases, a dedicated satellite broadband provider could get you up and running. So wherever your construction site is located, you should be able to get connected to the internet.
And how is this good for health and safety? Well, the internet connects you. You can get access to the site files, resources from the HSE, your company intranet, or HASpod. You can access online training, talks and documents. You can monitor lone workers, report a problem, upload a picture or file, and get advice from your team in other locations.
Construction sites are often remote and can be spread across large areas. GPS technology can be used to track where workers are. This is especially useful for knowing when workers are entering potentially dangerous areas or for monitoring the last known locations for lone workers. It can also help workers themselves, locate where they are and find their way, preventing workers from getting lost, both on foot (using a smartphone) and in vehicles (using satellite navigation).
This tracking can help reduce accidents and also allow a quick response to the correct location if a problem occurs.
One service we are particularly excited about in this space is what3words, which helps you find an exact location by dividing the world into 3-metre squares. Super helpful on construction sites that might not have a street address yet.
In an emergency, staff and contractors on the ground can give the what3words address for their exact location so help can find them faster.
The Bluetooth range on your smartphone is only around 10 metres, but you can use it to share files and information with other workers close to you. But there are other use cases for Bluetooth that can help with construction health and safety.
You can use Bluetooth to pair up accessories to your smartphone or tablet. For example, a vibration sensor that measures your exposure. This sensor could feed data back to your device, which will alert you if you're getting close to vibration exposure limits. This same type of thing could work for noise and dust exposure monitoring too.
There was a time when you would need to buy an expensive standalone camera to take pictures on site. And then wait a week for those photos to get developed! Now nearly everyone on site will have access to a camera on their phone. And they can share it immediately via Bluetooth, email or a filesharing service.
Having photos instantly available is great for health and safety. Need to report a problem or a concern? Need to know that something is correct? Need to check your work remotely? A picture tells a thousand words. And a video tells a thousand more!
Speaking of cameras, most smartphone cameras these days have a built-in barcode or QR reader. Use this technology to simplify processes like toolbox talk attendance and signing into your sites. Instead of a paper-based register, an online construction site register lets you know immediately who is on your sites, even back at your office.
No collecting paper forms. Know who's signed in on your site in real-time.
While attendance and time tracking is mostly a HR service, it can also have health and safety benefits. Knowing who is on your site helps you check if they have suitable training, if they need an induction, and what information they need to know. It helps you assess supervision, fire marshal, and first aid cover requirements.
There are thousands of free and paid for online services you can use to improve health and safety, with new services getting launched all the time.
But there are plenty of everyday online services you can use to improve health and safety too. Many of these services your team will already be familiar with and use in their personal lives. Like Facetime or Whatsapp. For example, you could use these communication tools to check in with lone workers over video or message. Or use team applications like Zoom to share knowledge between sites, or have meetings with clients without leaving the site.
It wasn't too long ago that each new document, drawing or specification had to get printed, posted, collected from the office and taken to the site. By which time maybe another change had occurred! And construction projects have hundreds of documents. This lengthy process was bad for health and safety because if your team don't have up to date information, mistakes (and accidents) are more likely to happen.
Are you struggling with any health and safety problems? Get in touch with us and see if we can use technology to help you solve them.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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