Worker safety is a leading concern on any job site. Construction work will always involve some risk, but some tools can minimize and address these hazards to keep workers safe. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most helpful technologies in this regard.
You may be most familiar with the IoT in the form of personal gadgets like smartwatches and connected thermostats, but worksite IoT devices are a growing field, too. Roughly three-quarters of contractors today believe these technologies can help them mitigate risks and they are becoming increasingly accessible. Here are five ways they can help you improve worker safety.
Monitoring Worker Health Factors
Wearables like smart helmets, connected vests, and even consumer-targeted smartwatches are some of the most practical IoT use cases for worker safety. These devices can monitor their health by tracking factors like user heart rates, perspiration, or body temperature. When these signals get too high — signifying risks of overexertion — they can alert you, informing you to take a break before an injury occurs.
Overexertion is the second leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the workplace, accounting for 22% of these incidents. They are also entirely preventable, but it can be difficult to tell when you or your colleagues are in danger of overworking, especially on a busy worksite. Real-time alerts from wearables remove that uncertainty.
Wearables can also alert site managers of workers’ conditions so they can respond to any issues if necessary. These notifications can reveal trends like if specific workflows produce more overexertion than others, helping reorganize worksites to create safer environments.
Detecting Jobsite Hazards
On-site IoT sensors can monitor the area for airborne contaminants, high temperatures, or other environmental hazards. When they detect unsafe levels, they alert nearby workers of timely evacuations, breaks, or workflow adjustments.
Many of these factors can be challenging to detect with your own senses until it is too late. By using specialized sensors, IoT devices provide a more reliable and efficient way to find emerging hazards. These early warnings, in turn, prevent more injuries.
Some worksites use drones to survey the area before and during construction to watch for risks like slippery surfaces, fall hazards or uneven terrain. Using these connected devices instead of manual inspections provides a more comprehensive look at the environment and does not put anyone in harm’s way in the process.
Motion trackers and location sensors are other valuable types of IoT devices for construction site safety. Struck-by incidents are one of the most common causes of construction injuries and 75% of these incidents involve heavy equipment. Location sensors can help by boosting workplace awareness.
IoT sensors on vehicles can communicate with workers’ wearables and on-site sensors to detect when they get too close to an obstacle or pedestrian. They can then alert the driver or automatically stop the vehicle before it runs into anything or anyone.
On a crowded worksite, you cannot always hear or see heavy equipment coming. These real-time alerts from motion-tracking devices provide awareness you may not have otherwise, resolving that issue.
Minimizing Equipment Errors
Collision prevention is not the only way the IoT can improve equipment safety, either. Connected sensors can also track machine health factors to alert you when they need repairs. Because equipment failures can fling debris or cause other damage, this IoT-driven maintenance will prevent workplace injuries.
Standard approaches to maintenance either run equipment to failure — which introduces risks of catastrophic breakdowns — or repair it on a schedule, which is costly and time-consuming. IoT-based predictive maintenance offers a better alternative to both. By using IoT data to enable need-based repairs, it prevents breakdowns and unnecessary work.
By keeping all equipment in optimum condition, you will also prevent incidents that may arise from machine misuse. If a tool or vehicle does not work correctly, frustrated workers may try to force it to work, causing slips, accidental cuts, or more dramatic injuries. IoT-based maintenance reduces the chances of this misuse by ensuring everything works as it should.
Informing Long-Term Improvements
As teams use IoT devices in these other roles, they will generate considerable data on workplace safety trends. This information can guide ongoing improvements to keep job sites as safe as possible.
Data from predictive maintenance sensors can show which tools require the most frequent repairs, highlighting what you may need to replace. Over time, wearables can show what activities or areas on a worksite cause the most overexertion, showing where to take extra caution or adjust workflows.
If firms pay attention to these trends, they can identify their most significant hazards, showing where they must improve to be safer. Making these changes will result in the industry becoming increasingly secure over time.
The IoT Is Transforming Jobsite Safety
As IoT technology grows, more worksites will benefit from these safety use cases. That trend will result in fewer injuries and incidents overall. If enough teams capitalize on this technology, the industry could move past its reputation for hazardous work.
IoT sensors could become essential safety tools as these trends rise. Investing in the technology early can help you reap the benefits of that movement for longer.
About the Author
Emily Newton is an industrial writer who specializes in covering how technology is disrupting industrial sectors. She’s also the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized where she covers innovations in industry, construction, and more.