Managing health and safety with technology and using it right

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

This week we’ve had some of the nicest weather of the year, with the sun finally showing its face. While the weather puts us all in a good mood, I can’t help but immediately think of outdoor workers, working under the sun, and whether they’re managing health and safety correctly.

The use of technology can improve the level of health and safety within the industry, I keep saying there’s no need to fear technology, and it’s true. Digital technology, at the level it is now, can make the industry more productive, cost effective and the big one for me, safer.

A study measured UV exposure among workers across 9 sites and found that many were irresponsibly putting their health at risk because of a desire for sunlight and a tan. The aim of the research was to investigate whether short messages delivered to worker’s smartphones, as well as appropriate organisational support, could prompt them to change their behaviour. The messages, delivered in the summer, encouraged workers to seek shade and use sunblock to avoid sun damage, but they had little or no effect on workers behaviour. Every year there are more than 3,000 cases of skin cancer caused by outdoor work in construction and other industries, and by the sound of it, we can all be doing more to prevent this.

I don’t think that technology is to fault here, we have so much out there to improve health and safety, it’s just a case of workers taking advantage of that. With something like the sun, we all know how dangerous it can be and workers know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s important to just pay attention to how you’re feeling in the heat. If you don’t feel right, hydrate and have a rest in the shade. Maybe this is another example of site culture which needs to change.

We’ve got wearable technology that can detect drowsiness, changes in blood flow, signs of stress and a change in posture so 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. Virtual reality reduces accidents on site by creating simulations of real workplaces and hazards, allowing workers to be more aware of dangerous situations. Drones inspect a job from above or in places where it is dangerous for a human to go, allowing the technology to spot potential hazards and monitor ongoing activity. Is this not just another example of technology working for us.

I’m so proud of the way the industry has (finally) accepted technology and just run with it. We live in a world where gadgets and technology make our lives easier daily and we’re lucky enough to have it available to us in most areas of the industry, so we’d be pretty foolish not to use it, especially where health and safety is concerned.

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.