Construction sites are hazardous. They physically change day by day, and new obstacles and safety hazards come and go continuously. Endless papers have been written about safety in construction sites and how technology can help in improving site safety, but those are missing on the importance of engaging construction workers to improve the safety culture and to identify hazards as fast as possible. At the end of the day, a safety supervisor has only two eyes, but when you engage the entire site to improve safety you can be at the right place at the right time.
On-Site Risks Are Ever-Changing
Safety hazards like missing railings, holes in the floor, open electricity cabinets, heavy duty equipment or misplaced materials and equipment are all an opportunity for serious injury. At the same time, those hazards are all temporary and can occur in minutes. The sheer size of a construction site makes it extremely challenging for site safety inspectors to identify those hazards as they occur, notify all relevant stakeholders and remove them before a disaster happens. As workers move around the site, they encounter new hazards that they are in many cases not aware of and they are having a hard time making sure they are well protected.
Safety inspectors work day and night to identify and remove those safety hazards, but they too have their limitations and they can only process a limited amount of information. The engagement of construction workers in identifying and reporting safety hazards, enable fast accurate identification so no hazard falls between the cracks. Combining those worker based safety reports with IoT sensors to understand location, provides a real-time safety hazard map that is used to identify, report and eliminate those hazards.
Communication Barriers Lead to Unknown Safety Risks
Another major challenge of safety inspectors, is to communicate the safety hazards to the workers in real-time. Making sure all workers know the safety hazards around them is key to making sure they avoid them. The size of the construction site and the large number of project participants make it hard to communicate those hazards. In addition, hazards are relevant to the workers near them and not to all project participants.
Using location based technologies, with a central cloud database that includes all relevant hazards and their location, enable user specific, location-based safety alerts that notify only relevant workers at the right place at the right time. That way safety inspectors can make sure all participants are aware of the relevant hazards while not spamming the entire project crew.
Language Barriers Magnify Safety Hazards
Construction crews consist of people from many nationalities and speaking different languages. This makes the communication between stakeholders even more challenging and can lead to additional safety hazards. As an example, if a safety inspector that speaks English notifies a worker that speaks only Spanish of a hazard, misunderstandings can occur and lead to lack of awareness of those hazards.
Therefore, all safety material and platforms should contain as much visual content as possible and minimum usage of text. The text that is included must be translated to all relevant languages to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that they can communicate effectively. It is recommended to use as many symbols and icons as possible to facilitate communication.
Building a Culture of Safety
A safe site is a site where safety is always in mind. When project participants think about safety on a regular basis, they avoid safety hazards, they report safety hazards and they won’t get injured. Safety huddles on site a great routine but they don’t lead to continuous engagement and a safety state of mind. Engaging the workers to report safety hazards in a fast and easy way, notifying them only on safety hazards that are relevant to them and rewarding them on their engagement publicly is a great way to build this safety culture and make sure safety is their number one priority.
If site safety is your number one priority, you should focus on engaging the workers. An engaged project crew is one that knows the safety hazards, notify them about them and eliminate them. This way, you will have no lost time incidents on your construction site.
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July 29, 2021
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