In the UK just like in the United States, health and safety in construction is critical to everyone working in the industry. People in the industry work from great heights, are exposed to hazardous materials and operate heavy machinery – all of which put workers at significant risk. Therefore, it’s essential that precautions are taken.
Project managers and health and safety officers are required to carry out a number of practices before they even start on site. Detailed risk assessments aim to identify potential dangers associated with the project. Consequently, safety measures mitigate these risks. Risk assessments are an essential part of the constructor’s due diligence and must be carried out with great care and attention. However, unless we continue to innovate the process, they can fall short of what they’ve set out to do.
Gathering accurate and up-to-date data about the project and its risks are instrumental to their success. New technologies on the market provide software and project management tools which will help improve the accuracy of these assessments. The construction industry has been dependent on spreadsheets and manual labour to keep risk assessments and data up-to-speed. However, technology can reduce manual labour and input, and therefore remove room for errors. Mistakes can have critical consequences, so we must improve our practices where we can.
Research published by the Construction Skills Network last year showed the UK construction industry is facing a shortage of a quarter of a million workers over the next four years. This has led to a shortage of training resource and skills to onboard new talent into the profession. Inadequate training for workers can lead to unsafe practices and new workers lack the knowledge and the experience to navigate hazardous situations. New technologies can provide online classroom training to new apprentices, equipping them with the knowledge and theory they need before they even set foot onto a building site. Many companies are trialling Virtual Reality (VR) tools too, which can provide immersive training experiences for workers and simulate hazardous scenarios. This allows workers to practice safety procedures in a secure environment before they are exposed to any risks.
Once onsite, these new tools can offer access to safety procedures, guidance, protocols and even provide hazard alerts. Many have a built-in tool to allow workers to report unsafe conditions. Historically, project managers and health and safety officers have relied on workers to manually report risks – which takes time and resource. By using these new methods, risks can be identified and reduced before they actually occur and can be addressed promptly.
To truly mitigate risks, we need to learn from our previous mistakes. Project management apps can not only track errors, conduct safety audits and streamline safety processes, but can also help manage safety documentation, track compliance with regulations and facilitate communication among workers and supervisors. Better information management allows companies to anticipate the hurdles they need to overcome to deliver.
Introducing technologies into construction practices takes adjustment, but the benefits outweigh the time and investment. Technology can improve safety, reduce accidents and increase productivity which will make it worthwhile for construction companies.