06 Dec Workplace Health and Safety: Emerging trends in construction site safety protocol
We’ve all seen the infamous photo of 11 workers having their lunch break on the Brooklyn Bridge, suspended 850 feet in the air.
Whether the photo was doctored or not remains unconfirmed, but the popular belief is that this photo is real and, quite frankly, makes our 21st-century safety-conscious eyes water!
Fast forward to today and you won’t get near a construction site without steel toe capped boots, hard hats, and protective gloves. Having a mid-morning snack near running machinery is a no-no let alone sitting on a crane’s arm suspended hundreds of feet in the air. A combination of factors has increased our attention to workplace health and safety, none more so than work-related injury and illness costing the Australian economy $61.8 billion a year.
Combine this figure with the fact that, as time goes on, more risks are identified, machinery capability has evolved, and we live in a culture that isn’t afraid to take legal action, it’s vital that on a construction site, we continually get workplace health and safety right.
Here are four up-and-coming trends that are becoming commonplace on a construction site:
1) Modular construction.
Modular construction is emerging as one of the more popular methods of building. Building units are produced off-site at a factory or suitable facility and brought onto the construction site for assembly. Modular construction minimises the risk to on-site workers by facilitating the majority of the work off-site in purpose-built facilities.
2) On-the-spot licenses and permits.
With mobile apps at our safety-gloved fingertips, the days of having to wait days or weeks for permits or licenses are fast becoming a thing of the past. Construction workers can apply for permits to operate machinery or tools which can be issued on the spot. No more forms to fill in or visits to the post office, it can all be done immediately.
3) Use of digital wearables.
In a potentially hazardous environment, digital wearables are becoming increasingly popular as a way to monitor an on-site worker engaged in what could be considered a dangerous activity. Digital wearables can come in the form of a vest which includes GPS tracking or radio sensors to monitor breathing and movement patterns and alert superiors in the event they detect an accident or incident.
4) Smart hard hats.
Heat is a big concern for construction workers across Australia and last year, Laing O’Rourke unveiled his pioneering Smart hard hat. The Smart hard hat is fitted with sensors which monitor the body temperature of the wearer, the heat outside, and the wearer’s heart rate. If the worker shows signs of heat stroke, the Smart hard hat sends an alert so the worker has time to avoid the onset. When working in isolation, the Smart hard hat can also send reports directly to a central database accessed by other workers who can monitor their body functions.
Workplace health and safety will always continue to evolve on a construction site in line with developments in machinery, procedures and accessible technology.