When it comes to construction site safety, there are a whole host of high risks to employees and contractors that need to be accounted for in order to provide a safe and healthy working environment on site. Therefore, ensuring you’re on top of site safety both now and for the future is of paramount importance.
To help you decipher what you should be focusing on when it comes to ensuring the safety of your onsite members, today we’re taking a look at some of the key construction site safety trends that are set to be hot topics of discussion in 2020 and beyond. From prioritising worker wellbeing to exploring the safety benefits of AI and smart technology, we’ll provide you with an informative view of how to lay the right foundations for cultivating health and safety best practice on your building site.
Wearable smart tech
While organisations can carry out all the right risk assessments and implement appropriate prevention protocols to optimise onsite safety, there also has to be a level of responsibility put on individual workers to be more safety conscious.
Of course, much of this comes down to common sense and educating workers on safety best practice, but there are reports indicating that the industrial wearable market is set to grow significantly over the next few years. This means that wearable technology could soon become the norm for construction sites.
For safety on site, this could entail workers better monitoring their physical health in relation to job efficiency and safety by using wearable sensors. A study last year already demonstrated that wearables can prevent fatigue-related injuries in the workplace, so having this kind of real-time data available to onsite workers could provide the capability to monitor core health parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels.
Other benefits of wearable tech come in the form of geo-location tracking that could improve safety monitoring for lone workers – as proven by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), who have already begun using tracking devices to monitor locations of consultants out in the field.
With this growing market comes a whole host of possibilities to track and manage employee safety more efficiently in ways previously unexplored, so this is definitely an area to keep a watchful eye on for this year and beyond.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation
It seems the wearable market isn’t the only area undergoing technological advancements in the construction industry either. While the use of AI in construction has been slower to take a hold than in other sectors, it’s now becoming a key focus for improving safety for site workers.
There is now AI software that utilises object recognition via video feed taken in real-time that can quickly identify potential risks on site, such as alerting construction workers when personal protective equipment isn’t being worn correctly. This quick identification works to reduce or prevent risks before they happen, optimising staff member safety as a result.
Other innovations also include the use of drones and automated robotics that use similar AI software to scan large building sites from above and on the ground respectively, feeding data back to a centralised system to highlight potential hazards with up-to-date information. Whether it’s pin-pointing tripping hazards on the ground or a possible risk for workers at height, the use of AI and automated machinery can help to bolster safety on site as well as speed up typically labour intensive processes.
The importance of wellbeing in the workplace has become a major focus across all sectors over the past few years – but as with technology, the construction sector has been slower to implement strategies to address these concerns than other industries. However, 2020 is seeing more emphasis being put on prioritsing employee wellbeing on site, taking a more comprehensive approach to employee health and safety that goes beyond the typical physical ailments associated with construction work.
With figures released by HSE for 2019 showing that 21% of the 79,000 work-related ill health cases were attributed to stress, depression and anxiety, it isn’t surprising to see why wellbeing is becoming an important element of onsite safety. Construction industry charity Lighthouse Club also reported a rise in the number of calls they received from construction workers or their families in need of financial and mental support.
All this suggests that we’re likely to see more measures being taken to highlight the importance of wellbeing in construction environments. While minimising the physical risks to workers is still a top priority, more companies are beginning to openly discuss the issues surrounding mental health too. As a result, this should work to raise awareness and encourage individuals to prioritise their own physical and mental wellbeing as an integral part of construction site culture.
Improved day-to-day safety
While the above initiatives all offer exciting prospects for improving onsite safety in the future, the physical risks faced on a day-to-day basis should still remain a core focus for creating a safe working environment on construction sites.
While HSE figures report a downward trend on non-fatal work related injuries, there were still 54,000 reported in 2019, which implies there is still work to be done in getting this figure down even further. In order to achieve this, construction site managers and workers need to continue to be vigilant in their daily operations, carrying out best practice to minimise potential hazards.
Certainly, addressing any areas on site that could cause trips, slips or falls is a good place to start – these accounted for 29% of non-fatal injuries last year. This could entail ensuring walkways remain clear at all times, securely taping up any loose wires and cordoning off potential hazardous areas with high-visibility tapes and suitable warning signs.
Other areas for consideration should also include frequent checks of personal protective equipment (PPE), making sure all workers’ safety gear is in good condition and appropriate for the jobs they’re undertaking. These small measures will all go far in cultivating a safer and healthier working environment for construction staff at every level.
It’s fair to say that we’re set to see some significant progress in how construction companies operate in 2020 and beyond. While some of these trends may not be fully integrated right away, we can certainly expect to see more emphasis on technological advancements, worker wellbeing and continued vigilance with the day-to-day safety aspects to help bolster on site safety in the future.
Alex Jones is a content creator for No1 Packaging – one of the UK’s lowest cost packaging providers.