Are you wearing a fitness tracker? They’re great, right? You can count your steps, check your heart rate, track muscle development and more.
But wearables aren’t for fitness alone anymore.
Increasingly, wearable sensors are being deployed to help improve construction worker safety.
Wearable technology is being embedded into hard hats, gloves, safety vests and work boots – apparel and personal protective equipment used every day on construction sites.
Biometrics and environmental sensors, GPS and location trackers, Wi-Fi, voltage detectors and other sensors are all being used to monitor workers’ movements, repetitive motions, posture and slips and falls.
Like fitness trackers, the sensors being incorporated into construction industry clothing can track an individual’s heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs and immediately notify safety managers if an employee is potentially suffering from over exhaustion or becoming overheated.
We’re talking about jackets that alert workers to harmful toxins and shoes with embedded sensors that can detect if a worker is carrying a dangerously heavy load and even alert nearby workers to help lift the heavy object.
Think about tags and badges that workers wear equipped with a call button to send an alert if they are injured, witness an accident or if they come across a hazard on the site that needs to be addressed.
By monitoring a worker’s vital signs, employers could possibly prevent thousands of injuries and illnesses suffered on construction sites each year. That, in turn, can help keep a company’s insurance premiums in check.
That, at least, is the hope.
Getting workers to buy in, however, could be a challenge.
Older workers want to see how wearables are useful to them specifically, while younger workers understand the value but say they’d more more willing to wear them only if coworkers also are using them.
SangHyun Lee, associate professor at University of Michigan’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is working on the problem.
Lee is conducting research aimed at improving wearables to make them even more useful to construction companies. The aim is to better identify stress and physical demands from a wristband monitor.
“I’ve spoken with many construction companies and their workers, as well as insurance companies. Everyone sees the potential to improve construction safety and health. But they all want to see successful cases of return on investment, which we’re working on,” he said.
In the end, wearables might not be a cure-all for companies with a poor safety record. But as anyone who wears a fitness tracker will attest, their devices are constant reminders to do better.
Michael Kline is a CCIG Vice President. Reach him at MichaelK@thinkccig.com or 720-212-2042.
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