Technologies Can Improve Construction Site Safety

Anew study from Dodge Data & Analytics reveals the engagement with and impact of two critical trends for improving construction safety—technologies used on jobsites, and the practice of Prevention through Design (PtD).

According to the report, only 34 per-cent of trade contractors are aware of PtD, the active consideration of safety during building design. However, 66 percent believe they are practicing based on the definition provided.

The study findings show that investment in safety has a positive impact on project budgets, schedules, quality and on business factors such as a contractor’s standing in the industry or ability to contract new work. And these impacts can be substantial: contractors reporting positive impacts on average see a nearly 5 percent reduction in project schedule and a 4 percent reduction in project costs.

The study examined the degree to which contractors are deploying technologies that can help improve jobsite safety, a concept that was also examined in 2012. Different technologies were explored, including building in-formation modeling (BIM), mobile tools and emerging technologies like drones and wearable devices.

Approximately one third of trade contractors surveyed reported using BIM, but 44 percent of general con-tractors reported using it. More than two thirds of contractors who use BIM (69 percent) state that it has a positive impact on project safety, a 27-point in-crease over those who reported that in 2012.

Smartphone use is nearly ubiquitous onsite, and tablet use is widespread and growing. This allows for mobile tools like cameras to be used by 85 percent of all contractors onsite.

Nearly half of contractors also em-ploy safety inspection checklist apps, but use of mobile tools for safety training and to access safety and health websites is less common.

Almost one quarter of contractors use drones to promote safety onsite for functions such as reality capture that allows for digital analysis of existing conditions. That number drops to just 6 percent when looking at trade con-tractors alone.

While wearable devices such as badges with coded electronic information and smart helmets are only being used by 13 percent of contractors currently, 82 percent of those who use them report a positive impact on safety.

Another emerging trend explored in the study is PtD: the effort to help improve construction safety by actively considering safety issues during de-sign, from the schematic stage forward. The study included an architect survey on this issue, which found that while few architects were aware of the formal name for this process before taking the survey, the use of key PtD practices occurred at least to some degree.

The biggest barrier to wider use of PtD among architects is concern about taking on construction liability, re-ported by 79 percent, followed by lack of client interest at 63 percent. Correspondingly, most architects would be influenced by requests from their clients to take this approach, and more than two thirds would be influenced by insurance incentives.

Editor’s note: “Contractors” refers to the combination of general contractors and trade contractors unless otherwise specified.

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