Technology has been entirely instrumental in various aspects of our everyday life. The construction world is not left out. Thanks to technological advancements, construction sites now enjoy better safety and improved efficiency. Communications are now much better and remote. Hence, employers and work crews can keep in touch and stay safe with little effort.
In this article, we will be taking a look at the construction equipment with the latest safety features and arrangements.
Why is safety important in construction sites?
Workers in the construction sector are one of the most exposed. According to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, about 1/5 of workplace fatalities are attributed to construction accidents annually, with 60% of these resulting from falls, electrocution, and getting stricken and caught by objects.
Breaking the figures down, 5.1% of death was due to construction workers and crew members getting compressed by objects or getting caught between them. The casualty figure rose to 8.2% in cases of getting hit by objects flying through the air or from falling from a height. 7.3% of deaths are attributed to electrocution-related injuries.
Reports have indicated that injuries and deaths on construction sites are mostly due to violations of safety regulations across different sectors. These include:
- Failure to use safety ladders according to OSHA regulations.
- Failure to set up safe and stable scaffolding, according to OSHA standards, to prevent the fall of objects and people.
- Failure of employers to protect workers from falls.
- Inadequate training of employers for fall protection and hazardous energy control.
- Absence of proper respiratory and eye protection gears or failure to wear them properly.
- Inadequate guarding of machinery and industrial trucks, among others.
Safety should be a top cause for concern in any construction site. Before now, technologies have been relatively powerless in solving fatigue issues, risky work positions, and equipment-related problems. Fortunately, most of the new technological innovations are safety-centered. They quickly and consistently track not only the productivity but also the safety of construction workers.
Technology vs. Construction
Contrary to popular opinion, most of the activities on construction sites are still handled by heavy mechanical equipment sets. Despite being older, some of the foundational ideas of these machinery types have become mainstream and infused in most of the equipment we used today. In addition to these, other innovations currently in the pipeline. They are expected to be available for use as soon as testing is complete.
Jobsite safety problems are top concerns for manufacturing companies. This is why newer inventions have focused on the protection of operators and other jobsite workers. Despite being relatively more significant investments, the worthy returns are evident in the reduction in the number of injuries, improved productivity, and lesser accident-related downtimes.
Construction Safety Technology
The integration of technology into construction sites has been long considered as a viable method to improve safety. This encompasses the introduction of tracked equipment, wearable technology, and drones, among others. While all of these safety features may appear attractive and ideal for your jobsite, it is essential to work with the findings of your site’s safety evaluation. This will ensure that you invest wisely by going for only techs that meet or contribute to your specific safety needs.
With that said, below are some of these techs, described extensively:
One of the most significant advantages of a camera-equipped drone is that it helps to monitor the jobsite remotely. From ensuring safety protocols to assessing progress at different angles, drones come handy in almost all construction sites. Drones are also used to move light tools and equipment, although only heavy-duty drones with extra lift can do this. This will come really handy in very extensive or multi-story jobsites, where it offers more efficiency than a human.
With camera-fitted drones, workers can check tight angles, which may be inaccessible with ordinary eyes. For instance, bridge inspection and pre-demolition assessment are two assignments machines like drones will handle better than humans, without taking unnecessary health risks.
Perhaps, the best part of this tech is its accessibility. Drones are readily available in electronic stores around you, and available in various models.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Construction sites are quick to turn new operators over to heavy and complex machinery. A better and more efficient alternative to this will be the integration of augmented reality or virtual reality into the training program. By throwing virtual reality into the mix, the user will learn how to interact and communicate with a complete computer-based system, to understand the safety and operational protocols.
As an advancement, augmented reality introduces a computerized overlay that serves as a bigger and clearer window to monitor and understand the interactions in the immediate environment. Augmented reality training programs are designed to allow operators to control the machine based on the response from different virtual situations built around real-life situations while just sitting at the controls. Every operator that undergoes an augmented reality training, including the licensed ones, can use heavy equipment to execute actions risking the safety of others.
Augmented reality is pivotal to the detection of hazards in a jobsite. For instance, there are special AR helmets that notify wearers of a potentially hazardous situation. Such systems also sieve through tons of information to provide workers precisely with what they need to stay safe and maximize productivity.
What prevents the body from getting in contact with the hazards of a construction site is the PPE – Personal Protective Equipment. Technology has found its way into the protective outfits of jobsite workers. For instance, there are now hardhats with inbuilt carbon monoxide detectors, which informs a worker of the presence of this dangerous gas in the atmosphere.
Other forms of smart clothing are closely linked to a robust information grid. One of these is a geofence – a virtual barrier made from electricity. It works by informing supervisors or sound alarms of a worker trespassing on a prohibited area. There are also special garments that assess the physical signs of a jobsite worker wearing them, including skin temperature, heart rate, and breathing.
They send an alert to the supervisors once they sense an elevation in the measurements, usually due to illnesses that require quick medical attention or a break (to relieve fatigue).
Supervisors can now easily track employees’ locations and activities, thanks to GPS-equipped mobile devices. These devices also come handy in recording safety violation instances or issues on the jobsite for future references. Therefore, it is easier to identify, trace, and resolve jobsite problems while preventing future occurrences.
Another perk of mobile reporting is that it is instant and anonymous. The reporter does not have to wait until post-working hours to file a report or worry about getting snitched on, especially for shy workers. With problems identified and accurately reported, it is easier to transition into safety technology integration.
However, mobile reporting will only work where there is a reliable Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. Without one of these, it will be impossible to do real-time employee monitoring or make or receive reports. In situations like these, the next best option will be the monitoring of local sensors.
The health and safety of jobsite workers also depend on the environmental conditions on such sites. This is why a robust site monitoring system must be in place, i.e., the strategic distribution of sensors that can keep track of temperature, noise, chemical levels, and dust. With these in place, it is easier to notify the worker of impending dangers or identify unsafe operational conditions that may necessitate mitigation or evacuation, such as exposure to higher chemical exposure levels.
Trust Caterpillar® Tech to keep your jobsite safety!
The Caterpillar® brand is one of the biggest jobsite safety advocates in the industry. It has continuously integrated safety-centered technology into its vehicles, which will not only guarantee the safety of the operators but also other jobsite workers. Caterpillar® safety tech comprises devices worn by workers as well as those installed on machines. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The idea here is similar to what is obtainable in drones, although on a larger scale. Cat remote control feature of cat connect allows an operator to control heavy equipment remotely. This comes handy in hazardous conditions that may put the operators at risk.
This tech offers two options – one of which must be integrated into a new machine. It is best to order new Cat equipment with the Cat Command remote operation hardware fitted from the factory.
The first of the options is the Line-of-sight, which allows the operator to control the vehicle from a distance not too far from it, using the portable controller. This option works without a high-speed or fast data connection on site. All the operator has to do is be within sight of the vehicle. It is a short-term, emergency remote control solution.
The second is the Remote Location option, which requires a high-speed and consistent data connection, as well as a centralized control station. With these, the operators can control the vehicles from the command center, which does not have to be within sight of the equipment. This system will only work flawlessly with a stable, high-speed wireless data connection. Delay in the execution of the operator’s controls can lead to serious problems.
The Cat Connect tech is targeted at boosting the productivity and safety of Cat heavy equipment. Infused with both software and hardware components, this tech works hand-in-hand with existing machinery to keep workers safe while on the line of duty. This ultimately reduces injury and fatality rates, as well as downtime significantly.
Worker Detection Systems
Also known as the Cat Detect, this system helps to keep track of the location of jobsite workers. It runs on the RFID – Radio Frequency Identification technology. Hence, it provides only accurate and dependable readings. This means that the driver is always aware of the position of others relative to his when operating a vehicle. This awareness helps to reduce jobsite accidents significantly.
The early stages of the Cat Detect system include small RFID sensors infused into the reflective vests and hard hats of workers. These sensors are washable and work without power. The difference between the active RFID and these smaller sensors is that the latter do not emit radio waves.
There is a corresponding detector sensor on the vehicle. It attempts to locate any nearby sensors by sending out radio waves, including those on workers that are not active or on break, provided they are on site. On detecting a sensor, the detector sends a visual and audio feed to the driver via the in-cab display.
Built-in Operator Monitoring
Construction sites are not immune to fatigue and driver distractions. Unlike cars that have no inbuilt preventive measures, Cat vehicles come with factory fitted operator monitoring systems designed to prevent reckless driving.
The cabs have individual sensors that monitor the eye and head movement of drivers. These sensors identify distractions by checking variances in movements. The process is sunglass-proof and works even in the dark. Once the system detects a variation, it activates an in-car alarm, and the driver’s seat vibrates. This alerts the distracted driver and most likely bring them back to reality. The Caterpillar Safety Advisor keeps track of this and logs it for an onward report to the supervisor.
There is also an in-cab sensor that monitors the fatigue levels of the driver. It does this by tracking the nodding or eye closing frequency of the driver. If either or both appears too long, the seat vibrates, and the alarm sounds. These will restore the attention of the driver. However, instead of logging the incident, the Caterpillar Safety Advisor informs the supervisor immediately. Fatigue means the driver is tired. Hence, it is only logical that they relieved of their roles and allowed to rest.
Cat driver safety systems are flexible – they work with almost all heavy equipment on the site, including new and old models. So, if you are looking to make an existing fleet of machinery safer, they come handy.
Wearables for detecting fatigue
These sensors are designed for fishing out workers that try to fight or hide fatigue. The human body is designed to ask for rests at intervals, without which it gets less efficient. Every construction worker on-site needs to be alert. Tiredness deprives workers of alertness, putting them at risk of injuries and counter-productivity.
The Caterpillar Smartband is a wearable tech that keeps track of the fatigue level of workers. It does this by retrieving information about the circadian rhythms and the sleep patterns of the user. It processes the data to predict and detect fatigue. The hardware is backed by a bio-mathematical science-based software that predicts whether a worker will get tired or sleepy on the job, even before they resume. This is relayed in the form of a numerical value – the fatigue score.
Every worker clocks a fatigue score when they arrive on site. The fatigue score is generated from their recent sleep patterns retrieved from their Smartband. The combination of this score and the ratings of other users is converted into a report. Supervisors rely on the reports from all the workers to choose a worker that is refreshed enough to handle a task safely. It also offers insights on which workers to excuse from the jobsite for sufficient rest.
A fatigue score of below 70 will return a fatigue pattern similar to that of a drunk driver. This means that a tired driver is as dangerous as a drunk driver. Thanks to the Smartband technology, such situations can be identified and prevented beforehand. Mistakes and errors are the leading causes of underproductivity, and they are primarily due to fatigue. So, with fatigue and fatigued workers out of the way, downtime is significantly reduced, and productivity increased.
Safe Construction Equipment from CAT
The flexibility of CAT safe construction equipment makes them compatible with almost all construction equipment. You can get in touch with us to know more about how you can integrate these into your existing fleet or ask to have them included in your new fleet. This will be a bold step in the right direction of reducing risks and maximizing safety.
Article by KEP Services for excellent grade used cat parts in the UK and Europe.