Technology in Construction Safety

Technology and Its Positive Effects On Construction Safety

Technology has played an important role in making construction sites safer and more efficient.

For example, with improved remote communications, employers can do more to ensure the safety of their work crews and job sites. This article expands on the role of technology in construction safety, especially in equipment with improved safety measures.

Why Keep Construction Sites Safe?

Construction can be dangerous for workers. In a 2017 report, construction ranked as a major cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for one-fifth of workers’ deaths for the year. A larger percentage of these deaths, 59.9%, is associated with one of four causes;

Falls – This is the most prominent cause of construction death – 386 construction workers died from falls in 2017.

Object Strikes – 8.2% of construction fatalities in 2017 were attributed to being hit by falling or flying objects.

Electrocution – In third place is electrocution – 7.3% of construction workers’ deaths in 2017 resulted from electrocution.

Caught by Objects – A considerable number of construction crew members died from being compressed by objects or caught between two objects. This accounted for 5.1% of recorded death.

The government has empowered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce regulations preventing injuries and deaths on construction sites in different industries. Some of these regulations are specific to construction. For example, employers are expected to protect their workers from falls by adhering to OSHA guidelines when it comes to fall protection. Scaffolding is another top regulation, with employers required to set up safe and stable scaffolding to prevent objects and crew members from falling, in line with OSHA’s requirements. OSHA also mandates employers to ensure ladders are used safely on jobsites.

There are other general industry violations, most of which entail the usual construction site hazards. These include powered industrial trucks, failing to wear the right respiratory or eye protection gear, adequately dealing with hazardous energy sources, and not training employees in fall protection. The need to keep construction sites safe cannot be overemphasized. Interestingly, only newer and innovative technologies can solve these problems. For example, the safety and productivity of crew members can now be tracked easily, eliminating risks like fatigued operators, equipment problems, and workers ending up in dangerous positions.

Role of Technology in Construction

Construction has always been about the use of heavy, mechanical equipment. Contrary to popular views, these pieces of machinery have not been relegated. Instead, most of them have found their way into the current construction setting alongside other top innovations. It is even more exciting to note that further innovations are waiting to be tested and cleared for use in the field.

There are tons of problems to be solved on jobsites, particularly about safety. That is why construction companies develop innovative ideas and solutions to keep their workers and equipment safe. The current construction machinery is designed to ensure safety, especially for the operators and other on-site people. While these safer and innovative solutions translate to significant financial investments, companies get excellent returns by spending less on injury compensations and productivity lost to downtime and accidents.

Technology in Construction Safety

More companies are looking into adopting technology to make their worksites safer and more efficient. These multiple methods of adoption include the use of drones, tracked equipment, and wearable technology. However, having so many options also come with a downside – choosing the right safety gear or feature is somewhat tricky. So, it is essential to do a safety evaluation to understand what areas of your site require improvement and the best gears to meet these requirements. The goal should be to improve in areas that most needs improved safety, thereby maximizing your investment in technology.

Let’s look at some of the technology solutions available to construction employers;

1. Drones

Most drones today are equipped with cameras offering a clear overview of the construction site. This eliminates the attending risk of using workers to achieve the same aim. It is an effective way of tracking your workers’ activities, ensuring they adhere to safety protocols. Drones are consumer products – you will find them in the most reputable electronics stores around. They are available in different models and sizes.

Some advanced heavy-duty drones can carry minimal weights around the construction site. The extra lift in such drones comes in handy on multi-story jobsites or when working on a vast land area. Drones are not only faster but also more flexible and safer. The drone cameras also give workers visual access to areas that appear too dangerous for humans. For instance, a drone can better ensure safety and maximum productivity instead of sending a worker for a demolition inspection or bridge inspection.

2. Smart Gears and Clothing

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protects the wearer’s body from worksite hazards. Technology brought about PPEs in the workplace, especially in clothes worn for protection. These include hard hats with carbon monoxide and detectors embedded inside. These hats can detect the presence of CO and alert the wearer of this odorless, colorless, and dangerous gas.

There are other types of smart clothing, most of which are connected to an extensive information grid. For example, a geofence, an electronic virtual barrier, can alert supervisors of a breach and alarms with sounds that go off when workers approach prohibited areas. In addition, some smart garments can effectively track the physical signs of workers, including skin temperature, heart rate, and breathing. The supervisors can monitor these signs and recommend a break and adequate treatment where necessary. There are also specialized sensors that can detect the posture of a worker – a standard indicator of work fatigue.

3. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Recent training for new operators now contains virtual and/or augmented reality. Virtual reality exposes users to a 100% computer-generated world, where they learn foundational machine operation and safety techniques. Augmented reality is the more advanced version – it puts a computerized overlay over a pair of clear glasses, allowing users to interact with the world around them. Augmented reality comes up with multiple real-life situations in the form of virtual challenges and requires the controller to interact with and control these situations via a particular machine.

A comprehensive VR/AR training prepares operators for good and safe use of heavy equipment associated with their job descriptions. With AR, operators can easily detect dangers around them. For example, the special AR helmets can see alert signs when a user is nearing a possibly dangerous part of the worksite. Employers can also regulate the information accessible to workers to keep them safe and focused.

4. Mobile Reporting

It is far easier and more efficient to track the location of employees if they are wearing GPS-enabled mobile devices. Such mobile devices can also document events of safety violations or similar situations on the jobsite. Based on the recorded information, supervisors can determine the exact location the problem occurred and prevent a future occurrence.

Unlike conventional reporting, mobile reporting occurs as soon as the problem occurs. Mobile reporting is also easier than walk-in reporting; the reporter stays anonymous while reporting the incident. The issues on jobsites are better tracked with mobile reporting, leading to improved productivity and safety on the jobsite.

However, mobile reporting is not perfect. For example, these mobile devices will only work on worksites with internet access. In addition, real-time monitoring and reporting of incidents are impossible without cellular activity. If you are in a remote jobsite with weak cell signals, you may resort to local sensors as your go-to site monitoring medium.

5. Site Monitoring

The health and safety of workers and crew on a jobsite depend considerably on the environmental conditions. Supervisors can make better decisions regarding safety when they can adequately monitor temperature, noise, dust, and chemical levels around the site. This is achievable by installing specialized sensors designed to monitor the environmental conditions of the worksite.

With access to real-time and accurate environmental data, supervisors can spot issues faster and proffer suitable solutions that keep everyone safe.

builder using Caterpillar technology at construction site

Cat® Technology for Better Worksite Safety

Every piece of Caterpillar® machinery is made with workers’ safety in mind. Downtime from injuries can slow the progress of a project and introduce unplanned costs. Caterpillar includes an inbuilt safety technology in all of its vehicles and offers wearable safety gears to ensure workers’ protection. All these ensure everyone is safe, especially operators and worksite crew.

Let’s take a look at these technologies and devices:

1. Cat Connect

The Cat Connect line of technology is designed to improve the safety and productivity of Cat heavy equipment. It combines efficient software and hardware in machinery to keep workers safe from injury resulting from worksite activities. This is an effective way of keeping your fatality statistics on construction sites low while ensuring minimum downtime.

2. Inbuilt Operator Monitoring

Freeways and construction sites have two things in common: driver fatigue and distractions. But unlike cars that cannot prevent these disturbances, Cat vehicles are equipped with inbuilt operator monitoring systems that prevent dangerous driving.

The cab section of Cat machinery usually comes with sensors that track the head and eye movement of the operators. These sensors look out for differences that could point to driver distraction. It is effective for drivers wearing sunglasses or operating the vehicle at night.

If the system detects variations that suggest the driver is not focused enough on operating the vehicle, it sounds an alarm, and the seat vibrates. This is to alert and get them to refocus. Plus, the Caterpillar Safety Advisors record the incident for further assessment by the supervisor.

Fatigue is also major issue operators tend to deal with on worksites. Inbuilt fatigue sensors in the cabs are designed to track unusual fatigue-related movements like consecutive nods or closed eyes. Either of these triggers the alarm and vibrates the seat. The incident is reported immediately to the supervisor. Based on this report, the supervisor can withdraw the operator from duty and allow them to rest sufficiently.

Cat driver safety systems are flexible. The monitoring equipment can be in any heavy equipment on your worksite, both new and used. While some of these safety features are only factory-fitted in some more recent vehicles, you can install the driver safety system manually in your older fleet. Now you can keep your worksite safe and productive without buying newer Cat machinery. Aftermarket Caterpillar parts are also useful for this.

3. Remote-Controlled Equipment

Drones are known for their mobility, which comes in handy when trying to access dangerous areas. Caterpillar integrates this fundamental idea on a larger scale in their heavy equipment. When using Cat machinery in hazardous situations, you can control the vehicle remotely rather than designating an actual operator. This is made possible by the Cat remote control choice of Cat Connect. It comes in two options, both of which can be installed into a new vehicle provided you request while ordering.

The first is the line-of-sight operation, which allows the operator to control the vehicle from a safe distance on-site. It works effectively without a high-speed data connection. All the operator needs to do is be within sight of the vehicle. This option comes in handy for emergency remote operation needs. The second remote operation is the remote location, which requires a high-speed data connection and a centralized control station where operators can remotely control vehicles. The remote location option is better for long-time remote control of vehicles. Still, it requires a high-speed wireless data connection to ensure real-time and uninterrupted communication of controls.

4. Worker Detection Systems

The Cat Detect relies on multiple methods to notify operators of where other workers are on the construction site at any point in time. The underlying passive radio frequency identification (RFID) technology ensures the response is never a false positive, making it easier for an operator to know exactly where other people are while using the vehicle. This is an efficient way of reducing the number of accidents on site.

The first step is to install a small RFID sensor into every worker’s reflective vest and hard hat. These washable sensors work without a power supply and can be on at all times. Unlike active RFID sensors, these devices are passive and emit no radio waves. The second step is to install a detector on the vehicle, which sends out radio waves in search of the small RFID sensors. The radio waves are so strong that they can detect the sensors in workers lying and sitting on the ground.

Once the detector identifies a sensor, it sends corresponding audio and visual signals to the driver via the in-cab display to alert them of a worker nearby.

5. Wearables that Detect Fatigue

It is common to see construction site operators try to fight against fatigue. However, no one can beat nature. Even the most energetic operators cannot force their bodies to work against tiredness. Sleepiness sets in, leading to accidents caused by the loss of control of the heavy machinery. Therefore, a tired operator is dangerous to themselves and everyone else on the construction site.

Caterpillar has found a way to prevent these ugly scenarios. Its proprietary wearable technology can track all workers’ fatigue levels, provided they are wearing the Cat smart band. First, the smart band collects data about sleep patterns, circadian rhythms, and other relevant metrics to estimate fatigue. Then, the band integrates this data into a special software that relies on bio-mathematical science to predict fatigue-induced sleep before it happens.

This prediction is premised on a fatigue score estimated from the recorded sleep patterns uploaded to the cloud from the user’s smart band. The fatigue score of every operator is checked once they arrive on site, and based on this and other users’ ratings, a report is formed. This report can help supervisors decide who is most likely to stay awake long enough to operate the vehicle safely.

In most cases, the report contains the already-estimated number of hours a worker can stay awake to work optimally. Once a worker reaches this limit, the supervisor can withdraw them from duty for a much-needed rest. If the fatigue score of a worker is below 70, there is a good chance such a worker will feel and react like they are drunk driving. Having such employees on a jobsite is outrightly dangerous to themselves and everyone around.

Ensuring fatigued workers do not end up in the operator’s seat or anywhere else on the site is an effective way of avoiding accidents, minimizing downtime, and maximizing productivity. However, tired workers are more prone to wrong decisions and errors, leading to downtime and a drop in productivity. With this technology, supervisors can identify fatigued workers early and pull them off the jobsite before it is too late.

In Conclusion

Safety on a construction site is everybody’s business. Unfortunately, a single construction site worker’s negligence can affect others. That is why employers and supervisors must take safety seriously. Fortunately, technology has made it easier to keep jobsites safe and productive. This article has presented several tech-backed safety recommendations supervisors can adopt to keep their worksite free of accidents. Caterpillar®, as a renowned heavy equipment manufacturer, also has multiple safety technologies and devices specially created to prevent downtime and additional costs caused by worksite accidents. These technologies are open to both new and existing caterpillar fleets, and while they may appear expensive at first, they present excellent ROI in the long run.


newcastle grey street

The Architecture of Grainger Town in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The history of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, is incomplete without the mention of Grainger Town. The town was named after its builder, Richard Grainger, a renowned developer, and it boasts architectural masterpieces in the forms of buildings, streets, and avenues, especially in the city centre.

Some honorable mentions include Clayton Street, Grainger Street, Grey Street, Theatre Royal, and Grainger Market. Buildings of this period were characterised by multiple storeys, spikes, turrets, domes, and vertical dormers. So, it is not surprising that Grainger town was Newcastle’s historical commercial centre for that period.

Popular historians describe the building of Grainger Town as Richard Grainger finding Newcastle of bricks and timber and leaving it in stone. The town spans 89 acres or 36 hectares of land, on which 450 buildings are erected. However, only 244 of these are listed, including 29 grade I and 49 grade II buildings. The ‘Tyneside Classical’ architecture of the town is evident in its unique layouts. For instance, Grey Street, a major street in the town, is “one of the finest streets in England”, according to Sir Nikolaus Pevsner. Other notable attractions in Grainger Town include the Dominican friary, a medieval 13-century edifice, historic Town Walls, and several other classical Victorian and Georgian buildings.

Newcastle’s Central Conservation is one of the foremost conservation areas in England, and this is where almost the entire Grainger Town falls into. Most buildings in the town are privately owned. In terms of development, Grainger Town is not slowing down, with fast expansion and the introduction of modern shopping outlets, jewelry and fashion outlets, and more. This is also where you find the famous Edwardian Central Arcade.

greys monument newcastle

The Rise of Greys Monument

Many Architects in Newcastle came together in the 1830s to build Grey Street, including the popular John Dobson. Two architects from Grainger’s office, George Walker and John Wardle handled the design of the entire western side. Dean Street was the oldest street in the town – it was constructed in 1749 and is the continuation of Grey Street from the south. Grey Street is where you find the Theatre Royal, designed by John and Benjamin Green. The Central Arcade and the Monument Metro Station’s southern entrance are both on the street. Grey Street is characterised by its Georgian Architecture, and it is unsurprising it was declared the Best Street in the UK in 2010 by BBC Radio 4 listeners.

Grey Street runs south from Grey’s Monument just after the Mosley Street junction and continues as Dean Street. It previously flowed into the Tyne, but since it is now underground, it descends towards the river with some slow curves to the east. Grey Street was previously called Upper Dean Street. In his description of the street, Sir John Betjeman highlighted the perfection of the curves, with zero traffic on a misty Sunday morning. “Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that descending subtle curve,” he said.

The Famous Grainger Market

The Grainger Market was included in the 19th-century redevelopment plan of the city. It was intended as a bigger and more modern replacement for the markets on the site of Grey Street. John Dobson was the designer. The market was opened in 1835 and had two distinct parts. The first part – the eastern section – is the meat market designed in a series of aisles. The second part – the western section – is the vegetable market, which is in the form of a spacious open-plan hall. Unfortunately, fast forward to 1898, the roof of the vegetable market needed to be replaced, and it was not until 1901 that the replacement was completed. While there have been changes to the intended use of the meat and vegetable markets, you can still find some butcher’s stalls there. You will also find the smallest branch of Marks & Spencer’s Original Penny Bazaar.

Demolition and Rebuild

The 1960s and 1970s saw up to a quarter of Grainger Town demolished. These parts of the original scheme were removed to accommodate new projects like the Eldon Square Shopping Centre. By the 1980s, the town already had a good number of new centres of commercial and retail activity.

The legacy of Richard Grainger was on the decline in the early 1990s. Several offices and shops were relocated, and more residents were relocating from the town. These left up to 100,000 metres square or 1.1 million square feet of vacant land, manifesting the most visible signs of urban decay. The town administration asked owners to clear listed properties and whole streets. This meant 47% of the 244 listed buildings became classified as “at-risk” and another 29% as “vulnerable.” Investors’ confidence was at an all-time low because no one wanted to invest in a poor environment.

Grainger Town Project

In 1993, the Newcastle City Council collaborated with the English Heritage and English Partnerships on a property development and environmental enhancement plan. The focus was on the worst buildings at risk, ensuring the already poor environment does not worsen. In 1996, EDAW was commissioned to come up with a regeneration strategy that would rebuild Grainger Town, alongside a bid to the government for funding.

The proposal’s goal was simple – transform Grainger Town into a competitive and attractive location in the city centre. The sponsors envisioned Grainger Town to become a high-quality environment that can be correctly tagged as a major European regional capital. The proposed timeframe for the project was six years, and it ran between April 1997 and March 2003. The project cost over £174 million, and £146 million of this came from the private sector. The eventual cost exceeded the proposed cost, which was just £74 million.

Architects in Newcastle did a great job with the Grainger Town rebuild project. The project marked the total transformation of Grainger Town, and this came with major achievements like job creation, new business setups, improved commercial floorspace, and more. The project also marked the historical repair and revamping of Grey’s Monument and the completion of over 200 flats and apartments, mostly within the Clayton and Grainger Streets areas.