Mobile Defender Model-S
The latest federal reports, released in November of last year, indicated an overall reduction in the number of workplace injuries in the private-sector in 2016. About 2.9 million people were injured on the job in 2016, or otherwise became ill, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While these numbers do not include fatal injuries, it was also noted that a significant decrease of workplace injuries occurred in the construction industry, which for years has been one of the riskiest professions.
HAZARDS AND RISK
The dangers of the construction industry come as no shock to people in the field. They deal with the hazards and mitigate the risks of operating heavy equipment, performing tasks on partially-erected structures, and the many other skills required to fuel economic growth on a daily basis. However, this does not mean that employees and employers always take the necessary precautions to ensure safety, and accidents happen.
According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in the construction industry. And, the regulatory body does not mess around when it comes to enforcing workplace safety rules.
In December, a contractor in West Virginia was cited with over $86,000 in fines by OSHA after a worker was injured falling from a roof. That injury led to an investigation that uncovered a variety of violations including failure to provide fall protection equipment and exposing workers to other hazards. An Oregon construction company was fined more than $115,000 by OSHA in November after a worker died from injuries sustained when he fell almost 20 feet while installing roof trusses on a house. Fines for this incident included failure to ensure workers were provided with and using fall protection equipment, failure to have a written fall protection plan, and failure to have an accident prevention program.
Events such as these motivate construction executives to review their safety and prevention policies and procedures. This ranges from simply having safety harnesses available and enforcing their use to providing more robust training and systems to ensure precautions are taken to help prevent falls and how to rapidly respond if falls occur.
Quick response in the case of jobsite injuries results in more lives saved. Jobsites are loud and can be expansive. It is possible that a worker could fall or otherwise get injured without coworkers noticing. Further, the staff often works alone, increasing the risk of work-related injuries becoming serious or even fatal. After a fall or being struck by an object, a worker could be unconscious and unable to call out to coworkers or use a cell phone to place a call to 911 for help. And, while they offer many conveniences, cell phones and smartphones are the not ideal tools for emergency communication.
For example, a cell phone cannot detect if someone slipped off a roof, triggered a staple gun and sent a nail through a hand or foot, or had one of the thousands of other emergencies that can occur on a jobsite. With a cell phone, the user is still required to be conscious and within range of the phone to make a call for help. In the case of mobile workers and lone workers, cell phones are not the most reliable or function-rich options for tracking and monitoring employee safety and health.
A better solution than relying on cell phones for emergency communication is easily worn devices (i.e., wearables or wearable devices) that automatically report changes that could indicate an emergency.
There are products like smart hard harts, smart safety vests, smart eyewear, and even stick-on patches that can monitor everything from an employee’s location to body temperature and positioning. These devices eliminate the need for a worker to proactively report an emergency, but like cell phones, they have their limitations.
While the above mentioned devices are able to transmit certain information about a situation to a manager or human resources department, they do not create a direct line of communication between the worker and responder. If verbal communication is possible in the emergency situation, the worker would still need to place a phone call.
A better emergency communication option for the construction industry is mPERS (mobile personal emergency response systems) devices. Essentially mPERS are a help button that can be pressed after a fall to alert emergency responders that assistance is needed, similar to devices used by seniors for years. These types of technologies have become more beneficial because they no longer require a base station device to place calls, which limited their range of use.
Like other wearables, mPERS devices are small and lightweight. They provide state-of-the-art location technologies and also offer built-in fall advisory capabilities. Wearables with this type of functionality detect horizontal and vertical movement. Taking it a step further than simply reporting a fall on the job via text message or red flag in a software system, mPERS devices can also eliminate the need for the worker to initiate a call for help. They can trigger one automatically, and cloud-based technologies make it possible for Central Stations to immediately respond to the call for help.
Another benefit of mPERS devices over cell phones is long battery life. Unlike phones that sometimes need charge multiple times a day, mPERS devices have less functions and do not need to be fully functional at all times. They can be left off or essentially in hibernation mode until the SOS button on the device is pressed or a fall is detected. Once an action occurs, location information is sent to a central reporting destination, and an emergency call can be placed. This enables mPERS devices to have battery life of up to 30 days on one charge.
Whatever wearable device makes the most sense for a particular construction company, the most important factor is that business owners and managers take advantage of these new life-saving technologies and improve the safety and health of their employees.
About the Author:
Chris Holbert is the CEO of SecuraTrac. As the CEO, he is responsible for leading the company’s vision of developing, marketing, and selling a suite of mobile health and safety solutions that bring families closer together and improve employee safety through state-of-the-art, location-based services and mobile health technology. For more information, visit www.securatrac.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, February 2018
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