BY MATTHEW RAMAGE
Mobility and real-time access to information are changing the game when it comes to construction workforce management. While many companies have developed applications that field workers can access via mobile devices for data entry, they only solve part of the problem and still require workers to take time away from their job to access and record information.
Automation takes this one step further and is paving the way to improved productivity, compliance and safety across the industry. With automation, the field worker doesn’t need to take any extra steps. Automation involves taking existing workflows and actually removing steps, which frees up time and allows field workers to focus on their work. These systems can be completely self-serve, automatically tracking workers entering and exiting the jobsite for example.
A combination of hardware and software technology solutions is helping drive automation on the jobsite and data sharing across all team members. From smart sensors to software that connects workers in the office and the field, technology is simplifying the daunting task of keeping workers safe.
There are many ways that automation can improve construction workflows including access control, safety and compliance tracking, and emergency response.
ACCESS CONTROL AND SECURITY
A lack of proper access control not only compromises worker safety, but also puts companies at risk for costly litigation should a worker unintentionally enter an area that poses a health threat, such as chemical exposure, noise exposure, potential for head injuries or worse. While there is no way to eliminate the hazards inherent in working on a construction site, knowing where workers are and that they have the right credentials/training to be there can significantly lower the risk of injuries.
Using technology to manage access control allows companies to more easily monitor who is entering and leaving the jobsite, and to secure access to only those workers meeting specific entry criteria. Preventing unauthorized access to a jobsite is often done with the use of gates or with turnstiles that have one-way access into and out of construction sites and are electronically controlled. Credentialing workers with photo ID badges and/or hard hat beacons with sensors that connect to a central database in real-time can ensure only workers with approved access are allowed on-site. This takes a majority of the administrative burden off managing the jobsite and can eliminate the need to place a security guard at each entrance.
It can also provide critical information about workers’ credentials to make sure they are up-to-date before they enter the jobsite. By automating this process, the digitized data is delivered to the office accurately and with less chance of human error.
SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE TRACKING
According to the National Safety Council, construction companies can save an average of $32,000 for each medically consulted injury they avoid. Today’s software solutions for construction management are more sophisticated than ever before and can help provide a better picture of a company’s overall safety tracking. Using automated devices connected to the software, real-time safety updates can be shared with workers in the field regarding weather conditions, heat indexes, road closures or anything else that might impact the health and welfare of workers and reduce risk on projects. Cloud-based construction software also provides a dashboard view of project data and information by seamlessly integrating the systems that track safety efforts, incident reports, safety checklists and feedback with a company’s accounting, financial management and project operations. As such, contractors can keep closer tabs on safety incidents, trends and overall impact to the company.
In addition, regulatory compliance is also an important factor when it comes to worker safety and project security. Effectively tracking certification status for an entire team of workers, whether they are permanent or transient, can be difficult, if not impossible, using clipboards and spreadsheets. An automated system can streamline this process, acting as an epicenter of information regarding regulations and licenses, and can automatically push notifications about upcoming license expirations for any employee or contractor on the jobsite. By automating the process, companies can digitally track labor data to facilitate compliance-related issues.
In the event of an emergency, automated labor management technology can broadcast text alerts with check-in point details and track which workers have reported to the rally site. These solutions also provide instant access to contact information and last-known location for each worker on-site, so headcounts are fast and accurate. Beacons and labor management technology can identify unresponsive or unconscious workers and provide relevant health and personal records, as well as emergency contact information, in seconds. On larger projects, general contractors are staffing paramedics on-site — full-time — for faster emergency response and using location tracking to quickly locate injured workers.
These new advances in automation workflows help keep workers safe, ensure compliance, increase security and improve overall productivity. Moving beyond manual processes to leverage solutions that combine automated access control with worker data will help contractors meet the demands of increasingly complex projects, all while working faster and safer, with unprecedented accuracy.
Matthew Ramage is a business area director for LEM (Labor, Equipment, Materials) with Trimble.