Helping contractors work more efficiently and effectively within regulatory guidelines, advanced technology holds the key to making construction a safer industry to work in.
Health and safety is one of the most important factors to consider before, during and after any construction project. Slips, trips, heavy machinery and working from height can all pose serious risks to life. Perhaps it should come as little surprise then that HSE figures consistently report more fatal accidents on building sites than at any other place of work in the UK. Construction ranks only behind agriculture, forestry and fishing, and waste and recycling for deaths per 100,000 workers, while in terms of non-fatal injuries, there were a staggering 61,000 reported over 2020.
Construction safety – heading in the right direction
These figures are too high, and nobody would argue that the industry must do more to improve, but it has come a long way in the last decade. In the 19th century, during the building of the UK railways, it has been suggested that as many as three workers lost their lives for each mile of track that was laid. In 1974, the year that the Health and Safety at Work Act was passed, 166 construction workers tragically died on the job. By 2020, the comparable figure was 39.
Thanks largely to the gradual introduction of new regulatory controls, more advanced technologies and heightened education and enforcement of health and safety, construction has become much safer. With more advanced innovations being introduced all the time, these improvements look set to continue.
How digitalisation is transforming inspections
An increasingly rigorous approach to inspections will naturally have a positive impact on site safety, and this is an area in which digital construction has brought numerous benefits. Cloud-based, centralised data management systems give responsible parties greater visibility over safety data which, in turn, empowers them to spot and mitigate risks sooner. Moreover, if abundant safety data is handled and analysed effectively, leaders can identify trends and recurrent issues, and then carry their learnings on to future projects.
More robust than the traditional, paper-based reporting, cloud-based records cannot be lost or damaged and can be easily checked for compliance. This enables a more rigorous approach to safety from both duty holders and authorities, which helps to ensure accountability: an all-important aspect of the bigger safety picture.
Staying safe through the pandemic
2020 and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic threw up all manner of safety problems for the construction industry, the likes of which could never have been predicted until they became a reality. The practical, hands-on nature of the work made COVID-19 safety protocols especially complicated to manage because, unlike workers in other sectors, contractors could not simply operate from home.
Faced with this challenge, the industry reacted with admirable agility to keep the show on the road. Once again, it was the adoption of digital technology that provided many of the answers. For example, mobile technology-enabled workers to capture information quickly in the field for further analysis off site, thus lowering site attendance and helping to facilitate social distancing.
For this reason, any tool which could deliver efficiencies on-site was welcomed with open arms, because less time on-site meant less close contact. And if there’s one thing that ConTech is good for, it’s delivering efficiencies. For instance, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality (AR) headset, the Atom, enabled construction teams to conduct accurate remote inspections. This reduced the number of workers required on-site and allowed for a safer working environment. In one particular case, the ability to live stream directly from the headset improved productivity by 40%. Construction teams could view inspections remotely from the office, or the comfort of their own home, meaning social distancing protocols could be adhered to.
Digital systems were also crucial for onboarding staff members, facilitating track and trace, and issuing safety notices and advice to team members. In the case of the latter, better communication is a safety benefit that extends far beyond the specific issues raised by the pandemic.
Training your workforce
Digital technology can also have numerous applications for training purposes, which can help to make your teams more proficient in certain scenarios or with specific types of equipment. In the field, mistakes are costly and dangerous, so simulated environments - for example through virtual or augmented reality - present an exciting opportunity to give people a valuable, risk-free experience.
The IPA’s Roadmap to 2030
Setting the tone for the kind of technological developments we have discussed in this piece, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) serves as an expert adviser and strategic partner to the UK government and treasury. In Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030, the IPA sets out its vision for the future of UK infrastructure and how new technology can drive excellence in all areas, including information management; sustainability; world-leading efficiency and quality; and not least, safety.
Here at XYZ Reality, we are proud to have been featured within the IPA’s roadmap, wherein the Atom, receives citation. Projecting a hologram of the 3D model over the on-site landscape in real-time, the Atom enables users to compare project as-designed models against the as-built reality of your build with millimetre accuracy, plan the next set of works, and ensure there are no hard clashes or errors, thus eliminating rework.
Helping users to plan and execute installations with unparalleled precision; identify and prevent potential clashes; and rectify deviations proactively, the Atom is a game-changing piece of construction technology. By eliminating the reactive phase of project delivery, it saves vast amounts of time and money.
For obvious reasons, such efficiencies are always welcomed by contractors and asset owners alike. But beyond time and costs, any tech which allows for smoother planning, more organised execution, and greater accuracy will also help to ensure safety; and let’s be honest, you can’t put a price on that.
Find out more about what The Atom can do for you and book a free demo today.