Wireless Goes Where the Hardhat Doesn’tConstruction Site Safety
Construction jobs are inherently dangerous. The mixture of heavy machinery, deep holes, extreme heights, concrete, steel beams, chemicals, etc. is always going to create the potential for all types of injuries and even fatalities. In 2014 in the US alone, there were nearly 5,000 fatal occupational injuries, of which construction led with 17% of the total despite employing only 6% of the workforce in the evaluation. The most common worksite hazards for construction workers were workplace falls, electrocution, being struck by objects or being caught between two objects.
A quick look at global fatality rates demonstrates not only how dangerous construction jobs can be, but also that the US has a lot of room to improve relative to other major countries listed here above:
The relative safety of a construction worker varies widely by country, and there are many factors contributing to the differences that are not limited to differences in regulations, or pay. But in keeping in the spirit that “1” is too many, new ideas are being developed daily to improve safety records.
Isolating the Problem
|1- Once they head down into that big hole, it's hard to know where they are..|
A major factor that complicates safety at a construction site is the nature of the way work, and the workers are organized. Different types of work are performed at different stages of the construction, meaning different groups of workers with different skills, tools, location assignments are moving in and out of the work area every day. Since the work is not linear, there is a lot of overlap – for example, heavy machinery might have just moved on to another section of the site while electricians are working in a more complete section of the site.
And, unlike many other workplaces, a construction site is made of up teams who might all be from different subcontractors. While it is now common to have ID badges for everyone so the general contractor can keep track of who is on-site and who is not, it does not provide visibility into the location of each worker, their movements, etc., essentially creating a “blind spot” for both the on-site supervisor and other workers on the site who might be in proximity to, but not aware of, someone else. And on a construction site “proximity” could refer to up and down as well as lateral location.
Using RFID as Your “Spotter”
Enter the “Spot-r” system, a specialized system designed to create maximum visibility into the work-site without the use of cameras everywhere. Developed by Triax, Spot-r has a 3-layer design that gives a supervisor a clear picture of where everyone and everything is, real-time incident awareness, and speedy evacuation capabilities in case of an emergency. Here is how the three core elements work:
- The Spot-r Clip – is a small, wearable device (2”W x 3”H) that automatically connects to the Spot-r network when workers arrive on site and automate headcount and identifies the location of each worker at any point in time. Any slips, trips, or falls by the worker are recorded sent immediately via email or text message to a designated supervisor, including who, where, what, and distance of fall. Workers have a direct channel to report an issue, hazard, or other injury to supervisors by pushing a button on the clip while remaining in their work zone.
- The Spot-r EquipTag – is the natural complement to the worker’s tag given the danger posed by mixing heavy machinery and workers in the same area. The EquipTag adheres to any piece of equipment – large or small – and can transmit real-time location, operator identity, and utilization data. It works in conjunction with the Spot-r Clip by detecting and recording workers in the proximity of the equipment and if they are certified to operate it. If the presence of an unknown or unauthorized operator is detected, the system sends an alert to the supervisor. The system also aggregates operational history, such as active versus idle time, hours logged by the worker, trade, or subcontractor.
- The Spot-r EvacTag. Is another device installed around the job site to streamline evacuations by emitting a high-volume alarm and activating emergency LED lighting? In an evacuation situation, supervisors can trigger an alert with their dashboard, alerting workers to gather at their muster point. A recent case study about Lettire Construction in New York City posted by Triax on their website indicated a reduction of evacuation drill time by 72%.
2- The Triax Spot-r Connected Jobsite
Why Invest So Much?
If the investment to make a construction site as safe as possible seems excessive (without commenting on why preventing fatal injuries should be obvious), consider some of the very practical benefits to taking safety to an entirely new level:1. Improved Asset Allocation via Better Data
Access to utilization data by equipment type, work zone, and operator gives you enhanced abilities to manage assets, be they owned or rented. Better coordination of rental equipment and downtimes means you save money. Awareness of overworked machines also means preventing unnecessary wear and tear or cutting corners – and safety.2. Compliance and Insurance Mitigation
Without a camera sitting in the driver’s seat, there is no better way to know who is operating your equipment and if they are authorized, licensed or not. An uncertified operator error can be costly and a high-risk factor for your business. The ability to respond to incidents and correct them in real time and also have recorded data will eventually work to reduce your insurance premiums.3. Learning From Experience
Without standardized data collection and reporting, you are always missing opportunities to improve your management of risks and scale best practices. The aggregation of safety and productivity data that you collect can be analyzed by the worker, subcontractor, trade, incident, equipment type, or zone-based location, and combined with the information from your back-end project management system can provide insights for better planning of future projects and more efficient execution of them.
Making it Work for You
|3- Time to add "RFID Chip" to Your Sign!|
Even if you are not in the construction industry, but are dealing with a number of the same issues – equipment utilization, employee location, and safety, etc. RFID can be used to assist you in improving visibility, better data analytics, safety, worker and equipment utilization and efficiency, etc. The same thinking found in this Spot-r system can be created with the help of an RFID expert using current equipment in the marketplace today and specialized software that integrates with your ERP and MES systems too. In most cases, this is also easier to customize for your specific industry or the business processes you currently use in a specific facility. RFID use is currently growing geometrically, and applications like this are what is driving its newfound success.