Technology Helps Improve Safety Onsite

By Donna Laquidara-Carr, Ph.D., LEED AP, Industry Insights Research Director

BEDFORD, MA - January 18, 2018 - In December 2017, Dodge published the Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017 SmartMarket Report, the third in a series of studies conducted with the support of the Center for Construction Training and Research (CPWR) and United Rentals. The SmartMarket Report includes data on safety culture and practices, Prevention through Design, benefits of investing in safety, influence factors, and safety training and communication, and it also includes new research on how technologies help contractors to improve site safety, a topic previously examined in 2012. The new study demonstrates that many contractors use technology to support their safety efforts.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

One of the technologies that was examined in both the 2012 and 2017 study is BIM. Over half of the 334 contractors who participated in the 2017 study use BIM, either by creating models themselves or by using models created by others. Over two thirds (69%) of those BIM users believe that BIM has a positive impact on project safety, a large increase over the 42% of BIM users who stated that BIM had a positive impact on safety in 2012.

Many factors, no doubt, contribute to the wider recognition of the positive influence of BIM on safety among contractors, including more experience with BIM and access to more BIM tools and capabilities that impact safety.

How does BIM have a positive impact on safety? Most BIM users (82%) who report a positive impact use BIM to identify potential site hazards before construction begins. Almost two thirds (61%) also find that using BIM for clash detection improves safety, and over half agree that the ability of the model to support prefabrication and its ability to create 3D images have positive safety impacts.

In addition, the study finds that more BIM users than non-users experience project and financial benefits from their safety investments, including improved project quality, reduced reportable injury rates, improved schedule, increased ability to contract new work and improved standing in the industry.

Overall, the findings on BIM suggest that contractors’ ability to capitalize on models to improve safety onsite has improved over time, and that trend is likely to continue.

Emerging Technologies

The last few years have seen a plethora of new devices and tools that have promising safety applications for the jobsite. Contractors were asked about several of these in the recent study, and while most contractors (62%) report that they are not using any of these technologies yet, enough were using three technologies for the study to provide meaningful data on their effectiveness in improving safety:

  • Drones: 21% of contractors use drones onsite. Among those using drones, 70% report that they have a positive impact on site safety.
  • Laser Scanning: 14% use laser scanning onsite, and 76% of them report a positive impact on safety from this use.
  • Wearable Devices: 13% use wearable devices, such as smart helmets and badges with coded information, and 82% of them say that these devices improve safety.

It is clear that, right now, only early adopters are using these technologies. However, as prices come down, and apps continue to be created that allows site conditions to be captured and analyzed digitally, these early findings suggest that site safety will benefit from wider adoption of these technologies. These findings form a baseline that will help track the use and usefulness of these technologies onsite in the future.

The Safety Management in the Construction Industry SmartMarket Report is available for free download at https://www.construction.com/toolkit/reports/safety-management-construction-industry-2017. Also, more data from the report, including other technology findings, will be included in a webinar on January 30 at 2 PM ET. More information on that webinar will be available at www.construction.com in January. In addition to the financial support of CPWR and United Rentals, research partners in the study include ARTBA, ICE, NECA, SMACNA and TAUC. 

 

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