From supply chain to ongoing maintenance, technology is making the construction process smarter and safer. Risk of injury comes with the territory for those working on construction sites. But that doesn’t mean that steps can’t be taken to eliminate physical hazards and risky practices to save lives and mitigate the potential for catastrophe.
IEEE Member Qi Dong highlights one of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “Fatal Four” — the potential to be struck by a falling object — which caused nearly 60 percent of construction worker deaths in 2017.
“The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction of China, like OSHA, found being struck by a falling object to be a leading cause of fatalities on construction sites,” says Dong. “This problem could be reduced by more strictly adhering to proper safety protocols.” In order to address this problem directly, Dong highlighted a unique way that 4G/5G and AI are being leveraged in tandem to reduce risk, which he hopes will see wider adoption in the future.
“When construction workers do not wear hardhats or helmets on site, it is, extremely dangerous,” says Dong. “Luckily, advancements in AI, coupled with 4G/5G, are enabling supervisors to monitor their workers from afar, knowing when they are and aren’t wearing protective gear on site. So, when worksites are fashioned with sensors and other IoT devices, workers can be monitored in real-time.” Additionally, in the initial planning stages of a project, architects and engineers can leverage emerging technologies to better identify potential challenges, leading to worksites purposefully designed to support safety.
Danger isn’t necessarily removed once a project is complete; construction workers are often tasked with structural upkeep and large-scale modernization projects, which aren’t without risk. “Historically, data on the status of a building and its structure had to be sourced by human monitoring, putting the lives of workers at risk,” adds Dong. Anytime a worker has to step foot on a site they’re at risk, of course. Now, with cloud-based technologies and IoT devices rising in prominence, engineers are able to monitor the integrity of structures remotely and more efficiently.”
Beyond the ability to improve safety on site, emerging technologies also provide improved visibility into the supply chain at various stages, which, according to Dong, is very important in terms of optimization, particularly on large-scale projects with many moving parts. “Take concrete, for example. Trucks utilized for the delivery of concrete are often leased, so if all of them are equipped with 4G/5G communication modules, a construction company would have improved visibility into the supply chain process, better understanding how much concrete would arrive with each shipment, when each shipment would arrive by, and more,” Dong explains.
According to Dong, technical standards developed by IEEE are being utilized to promote safety in construction, particularly in regard to emerging technologies that are increasingly being deployed on worksites around the world. “Increasingly we’re seeing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), WiFi-supported handheld devices, IoT-backed sensors, and other emerging technologies deployed in the construction industry. Whether in the supply chain or on actual worksites, IEEE’s standards are supporting the safe application of these technologies, which are poised to play a major role in the construction industry moving forward.”
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