Safety is always a top concern in the pavement and construction industry, where the rate of injury and death on the jobsite has stagnated in the last decade. Between 2011 and 2022, 10 out of every 100,000 construction workers died on the job. Construction workers experience over twice the risk of a fatal accident than any other industry. These are numbers that need to change, and wearable technology is making that change possible. As owners and managers consider what technology to pursue this year, check out the following list of smart tech that is facilitating safety and communication on the job site.
Smart sensor technology
The use of smart sensors that gather and transmit data can be used to minimize accident risks. These smart sensors can easily be clipped onto belts or carried with a worker just like a phone. They can monitor vital signs, track movement, and serve as a locator in case of an accident. For drivers, smart sensors provide data on deliveries and when they’re expected or delayed. They can also be used to track equipment, monitor the state of equipment, and send alerts when repairs and maintenance are needed. In fact, smart sensor technology is shifting the construction industry. They’re also being used to monitor the condition of pavement after pouring and notify when it is done curing. Sensors are even being embedded in pavement to create smart pavement which can transmit a wealth of data, including traffic volume, pavement damage, and recommended maintenance.
Smart wearable tech
Sensors can be worn, but they’re also being included in much of construction workers’ standard equipment. These smart tech items offer interesting data and greater safety for workers.
- Watches – Smart watches are becoming common for anyone, but the main advantage for use in construction is their ability to track health and vital signs. Smart watches easily monitor temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen levels and even detect illnesses. They can be used to alert workers when they’re in danger of overheating and need to rest. They also provide a hands-free form of communication.
- Boots – Smart boots offer many safety features useful for construction workers packaged in a standard construction boot. They monitor location and can be used to alert workers when they’re near dangerous equipment, and some have LED lights to make workers more visible at night.
- Hard hats – Hard hats have long been the standard in construction safety, but smart hard hats provide a major upgrade to this valuable equipment. They provide live location for workers, monitor health, and might allow for hands-free communication. They can also alert workers if they’re in dangerous areas, or others if a worker is involved in a fall or in distress.
- Gloves – These smart gloves, known as power gloves, allow workers to increase their ability to grip and twist tools by sensing how much extra power to add to the individual. Some gloves also vibrate to alert users to improper use of tools.
- Exoskeletons – Exoskeletons are performance-enhancing suits that help workers avoid injury and assist in a number of skills. They’re available in different formats, beginning with the power glove to increase grip strength. The next step up are upper body suits that allow workers to work with their arms overhead for extended periods while relieving muscle fatigue. The suits require much less exertion than the tasks normally require. Lower body support, sometimes called ergoskeletons, allow users to stand, crouch, and even sit, while avoiding positions that place repeated stress on joints and muscles. Finally, full body exoskeletons allow workers to lift heavy objects repeatedly and do other strenuous physical tasks while slashing the amount of exertion needed. While full body exoskeletons still come with a hefty price tag, costs are dropping and expected to further decrease in the next several years. Meanwhile, partial exoskeletons that cover portions of the body are much lower and still pack a punch.
Augmented Reality (AR) technology
- AR Glasses – Augmented reality is often seen as a way of increasing entertainment, but AR has many practical uses. AR safety glasses combine the traditional safety of this common PPE equipment with technology that allows the wearer to “see” warnings, information about tools and the job site, and even walk through the site while viewing the Building Information Model (BIM). AR glasses are only scratching the surface of their capabilities and will be integral to the future of construction.
- AR Headgear – AR Headgear is a step up even from a smart hardhat. Using a helmet and VR glasses, the headgear is able to superimpose 3D modeling over existing reality to inform workers where they are in the construction process and even direct the next steps. The helmets provide up-to-date information to provide users with everything they need to make informed decisions.
Smart and wearable technology is here to stay in the construction industry. Consider how you might use some of these tools with your employees to increase safety, decrease injuries, and step into the future of construction technology.