Just under five thousand American died on the job in 2017, and 20% of them were construction workers, according to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). Of those deaths, 381 were falls, 80 were struck by an object, 71 were electrocutions, and 50 were caught-in/between. These are known in construction as the Fatal Four.
To combat these risks, companies are developing new technologies which they hope will negate these risks and dangers. This has predominantly been done via wearable technology and, increasingly, the Internet of Things.
Some of the devices introduced include trackers that detect when a worker has fallen and direct first responders immediately to the scene, smart helmets that sense hazards and fatigue, and bionic exoskeletons for lifting oversized loads.
So far, most of the experimentation into these technologies has been limited to larger firms with more resources, but others are watching their success and will be taking their lead when they see success. John Butts, safety liaison of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said that many members have shown interest but are waiting to see the end results before pulling the trigger themselves.
“It’s in the infancy stages and I don’t think they’ve got enough data to go on,” Butts said. “Companies are going to have to be convinced that it’s going to save them money [in workers compensation and insurance costs] and that it’s going to make their workplace safer.”
One item under scrutiny in Connecticut is the Spot-r Clip, a device which attaches to the worker’s belt and monitors their location as they move around the job site. It’s currently being used in a dozen projects nationally. It can detect a fall, and has an emergency call button that workers can press to alert foremen immediately about potential hazards or injuries. It also has a loud emergency evacuation alarm which can be sent to the devices from the foreman’s smartphone.
The clip doesn’t come without costs. In addition to the price of the device (about $100 each), there is the network fee that varies on job and site complexity. But there’s also the cost of managing the data—the smart clip collects so much useful data that it practically takes an all-new position in the company to monitor and make recommendations based on the tool’s findings.
“It’s one thing to adopt it, it’s another thing to manage it. So you can collect all this data, but what are you going to do with it?” Butts said.
To learn more about the Spot-r Clip, or wearable technology, check out Hartford Business.