We have a lot of safety rules in construction and it’s practically impossible to monitor your job site for compliance of every single rule. To complicate matters, many rules are based upon exposure limits, especially when airborne particles are involved. OSHA recently reduced the allowable exposure limit of silica dust, which is found in concrete, stone, and brick, before additional PPE or engineering controls are required. This rule change has caused a lot of grief among construction industry groups, who called the rule technologically infeasible, because what contractor is really set up to measure when 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air is actually reached?
One UK tech company believes that they have the solution to the industry’s problem, with a product called SmartSIte. Not only can it measure particulate exposure, it also measures UV radiation and noise levels. All you have to do is set up the cylinder on site, which looks a lot like a small hazardous waste canister that you’d find in a comic book, and the tool gathers data in the background. Better yet, the program will actually alert the workers in the area of impending exposure limits, so that they can take action before the limits are reached. It also monitors individual worker presence in the area through the use of a small worker ID card.
Smartsite is currently in beta testing and plans to start shipping the product in early 2017. No pricing information has been released yet. As far as health and safety of construction workers goes, this looks to be an extremely promising product. For the first time, construction companies will be able to gather and analyze data to truly take worker safety in the realm of dust and noise exposure seriously. It will take the guess work out of PPE use and, hopefully, limit the long term health effects of our important labor force. By being able to show workers how much they’re potentially damaging their body, it will make it so much easier to convince them to actually put on the safety gear, which can be uncomfortable and annoying at times.
The SmartsSite technology isn’t the only technology product that’s going to make our job sites safer, either. Virginia Tech is developing a smart safety vest which will alert workers if an object is approaching too quickly (like a vehicle), CAT has developed software that can determine the fatigue of heavy equipment operators, and even hard hats are getting smarter with the DAQRI augmented reality smart helmet.
Check out the video below which gives an overview of SmartSite.
Almost two years after they announced the release of their Bluetooth Battery that allowed owners to remotely monitor battery life and even disable the battery if it’s stolen, DeWalt is set to release a massive upgrade to their connected tool platform.
There’s no shortage of company’s trying to improve the world’s roadways. Asphalt and concrete each have their own disadvantages, especially when maintenance environmental factors are taken into consideration. Plastic is a major problem for landfills, as well, as it can take an estimated 500 years to fully decompose. One UK company believes they can solve both maintenance and environmental problems through the use of recycled plastic.
Feeling the pressure of 9 straight quarters with a decline in total revenue, Caterpillar has acquired the equipment sharing startup, Yard Club, to get help dig themselves out of the dirt. Their most recent quarter was the company’s first positive revenue quarter since November of 2012.
I’m a firm believer that before robots start taking over construction jobs, we’ll first be working with robotics to make workers more efficient and our job sites more functional. Instead of using 3D printing robots to build an entire project, why not use them first to create intricate details and bring character back to buildings? Instead of pushing human labor out of the way, why not use robotics to enhance the abilities of our workers, to improve their health and productivity? With rise in development commercial exoskeletons, workers will soon be able to harness additional strength by just slipping on a suit.
Last year, Tesla announced a new disruptive product to the market in the form of solar roof shingles. Unlike traditional solar roof panels, these shingles mimic the look of traditional terra cotta, clay, and slate tiles, creating a more aesthetically pleasing look. This week, the company began taking pre-orders for the roof shingles and also released a cost calculator.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
Tracking employees instantaneously is a dream scenario for employers. It gives them tons of data to analyze to determine where money can be saved and where resources can be placed to be most efficient. The struggle is convincing the employees that tracking their every move is not going to get them in trouble or fired. There’s a balance in there somewhere and that’s the challenge facing both employers and tech companies right now.
Two of the most critical concepts of construction safety are the ability to see what you’re doing and to also be seen by others around you. Construction workers rely heavily on their employer providing lighting systems when working in low light conditions, but those systems are not always adequate.
There’s no doubt that the construction industry is behind when it comes to technology, but things are beginning to change. In the past few years, our industry has seen millions of dollars poured into new technology, including smartphone apps, advanced construction materials, and advanced safety equipment. One of the struggles –and perhaps the main struggle- with introducing new technology to the field staff is that many of them have been managing their jobs the same way for a long time. It can be difficult to convince them to change, especially if they have been successful with their current process.