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March 3, 2021

Five technologies impacting safety and productivity in the construction industry

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), more than 1,000 construction workers die due to on-the-job accidents each year, which equals almost three people every day. At the same time, research conducted by McKinsey & Company found that the labor-productivity growth for the construction industry averaged only 1 percent in the last 10 years, compared to 2.8 percent for the total economy. Clearly, the construction industry needs to consider innovative techniques and technologies to help boost safety, and improve productivity and project quality.

Innovation possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to new construction technologies. Construction companies need to focus on more ways to capture and analyze data in real time with the goal of identifying actionable insights. New technologies will benefit construction companies in nearly every aspect of service delivery as well as the quality of performance indicators.

Here are five technologies that are having a major impact on construction today.

1.  Building Information Modeling

A building information model (BIM) creates digital representations of a building, including the physical and functional aspects of the building. They typically incorporate the project timeline, milestones and budget, providing managers with vital project information and scope. The BIM of a project is sharable among all stakeholders, so architects, designers and contractors are fully informed and are given the opportunity to contribute information.

BIMs enable more efficient scheduling, increasing productivity and reducing the margins of error. Quality assurance is increased due to advanced imaging, and it is easier for contractors to ensure building codes and standards are met.

2.  Worker wearables

Wearables are digital devices that collect data and help workers correct unsafe situations. They use sensors to determine unsafe behaviors and conditions before someone is injured. Examples include:

  • Wearable wristbands
  • Hard hats
  • Belt clips
  • Vests

For example, if a personal wearable detects movement like a worker jumping out of the back of a truck every day, the behavior can be stopped. While this behavior may seem harmless, in reality it’s an easy way for someone to get hurt.

Advanced wearables detect body temperature, perspiration, heart rate and other biometric indicators that can be used to prevent everything from fatigue to heat stroke. Location-tracking devices, in conjunction with BIM technology and equipment sensors, can help contractors improve work sequencing and more efficiently utilize human resources as well as site layout to improve productivity and reduce downtime.

3.  Equipment sensors

Equipment sensors, also called equipment tags, are sensors that are mounted directly on a piece a machinery that helps improve productivity by providing real-time tracking. Contractors typically use idle time indicators as well as usage times to best allocate equipment utilization. In addition, maintenance times can be coordinated, reducing downtime.

Equipment sensors, in combination with employee wearables, help supervisors manage worker schedules and assignments, making sure certified operators are assigned to the correct machine and schedules are coordinated with work schedules.

4.  Environmental sensors

Sensors that detect environmental conditions at a worksite help improve worker safety, increase productivity and quality assurance. For example, high levels of humidity can impact the integrity of the finished product. Sensors can be used to detect moisture that could lead to defects in the future.

Other types of environmental sensors that are being used in construction today include sensors that detect:

  • Noise
  • Wind Alarms
  • Heat

5.  3D imaging and smart inspections

Digitizing the inspection process helps to detect issues early, thereby reducing the complications that defects can cause. New imaging technologies, such as drone photography, allow contractors to take 360-degree images of the project as it proceeds. This can then be compared to the project BIM to ensure everything matches up.

The use of all of these new digitized technologies together – BIMs, wearables, equipment sensors, environmental sensors and 3D imaging enable construction companies to be more responsive to their customers, improve worksite safety and increase productivity levels. Together, they are improving operations, project quality and increasing their bottom line.

Construction companies of today face complex challenges and risks. Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) offers expert partners that understand your company’s unique risk profile and can tailor risk management strategies designed specifically for your operations.