17th November Journal Column

 

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

We live in a world where gadgets and technology make our lives easier daily and wearable technology is one that has the potential to improve safety and increase productivity in the industry.

Wearable technology is defined as any accessory or piece of clothing incorporating electronic and computer technology. It is already used within other industries, think Virtual Reality headsets, Fitbit or an Apple Watch, so why not in construction?

As the industry gets more familiar with technology, digital solutions are being used in all areas of the industry, we’re moving away from paper trails and manual building and towards online solutions, new technology, apps and robots that can do the job for us. As the potential of technology improves, one area that we must focus on is improving safety, which can be done by embedding technology into our apparel and personal protective equipment.

Highways engineers at Amey Plc have been trialling wearable technology that could reduce risks to drivers and lone workers. Technology included; a collar drowsiness detector and ear clip that measured changes in blood flow, signs of attention loss and fatigue. A wrist-worn band monitored vital signs and environmental factors. This alerted employees to signs of heat stress and can provide other information, such as a sudden change in posture indicating a trip or fall, and the wearer’s exertion level, to ensure they are operating safely – all factors that could be extremely dangerous if not picked up on. They also trialled a location badge, when activated by the wearer, sends an instant alert allowing help to be dispatched far more quickly and accurately in the event of a threat or injury, particularly good for workers working on large sites or long, busy roads

Across the industry, wearables are being equipped with biometrics and environmental sensors, GPS and location trackers, Wi-Fi, voltage detectors and other sensors to monitor workers’ movements, repetitive motions, posture and slips and falls. The ability to know your body is struggling before it’s too late and to raise an alarm at the touch of a button has the potential to change the industry going forward, decreasing the number of injuries and deaths, making preventable accidents a thing of the past.

Technology such as trackers or movement monitors can be used to track workers movements and increase productivity as well as safety, you might realise workers are spending a lot of time walking back and forth to get tools or materials and you can use that data to better lay out the site to reduce inefficiencies. This poses the issue of privacy, will workers be happy with their boss monitoring their every move, even if it keeps them safe? Personally, I think it’s worth it, I’d be willing to trial anything if it means we’ll see a decrease in accidents, injuries and fatalities.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.