Smart Safety

The future of safety for building engineers and construction workers lies with technology, says Tended CEO Leo Scott Smith

With increased pressure to improve efficiency and reduce costs and timelines on projects, workers’ exposure to risk increases. More people die in construction than any other industry. Research has identified that the construction and engineering sector is behind most other leading industries in its adoption of technology, especially to improve safety. However, change is coming. Here’s how technology is being used for safety and what the future of safety tech looks like in the industry.

The latest figures from the Health & Safety Executive show the three most common causes of fatal injuries at work continue to be workers falling from height (40 people, 
2018-2019), being struck by a moving vehicle (30 people, 2018-2019) and being struck by a moving object (16 people, 2018-2019).

Autonomous AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being adopted to address the biggest cause of death – falling. Construction IQ – the latest AI tool of Autodesk’s BIM 360 suite – is being used to predict when falls are likely to happen as well as other dangers on a construction site, and this new application of technology is being trialled in Ireland. Irish construction company BAM Ireland has since reported having achieved a 20% reduction in safety issues on-site through the use of these AI-enabled industry tools.

There are other ways AI is being used to detect accidents at work. Cisco’s AI-SAFE solution combines real-time video analysis with algorithms and machine learning to ensure workers are equipped with the correct safety gear. It identifies any non-compliant or missing equipment and restricts access to the working environment, improving safety, efficiency and removing human error.

Wearables and the Internet of Things

Used for safety monitoring, tracking and reporting safety incidents, wearables and the Internet of Things allow managers to identify areas where safety can be improved. For example, Tended is using a connected wrist-wearable device and online dashboard to monitor safety and to detect and prevent accidents in real time. The wearable uses sensors to collect movement data to detect and report accidents. Further innovations include advanced safety features, including collision avoidance systems and hand-arm vibration monitoring to address one of the industry’s biggest causes of ill health (vibration from plant).  

Because of the Covid-19 world we now live in, the team created a wearable solution to help keep workers socially distanced so big engineering projects can still go ahead. The solution comprises an ultra-wideband proximity hub that can be worn on the arm or belt and measures the distance between site operatives with centimetre precision. This technology is currently being trialled by organisations across different sectors.

Mixed reality

Solutions such as Microsoft’s HoloLens combine AR and VR to allow users to interact with virtual objects within the real world through headsets. The blending of the physical and digital world provides opportunities to solve safety issues that have not yet been identified or addressed. Project progress can be checked and potential risks from the perspective of those on-site can be seen.

Technology solutions are already bringing benefits, with construction and engineering deaths down by 38 from 2017-2018 (; and putting safety at the forefront of projects can result in significant efficiency and cost savings as a direct result of a reduction in accidents. More importantly, this increases the health and wellbeing of employees.    

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