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Most construction contractors are not utilizing emerging technology such as drones to improve workplace safety, but change is expected as the benefits of using these technologies are proven, awareness grows and their prices start to decrease, according to a new study.
The study found that 62% of contractors do not use any of these technologies, which is “no surprise” considering they are still emerging, according to the report by Silver Spring, Maryland-based CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training and New York-based Dodge Data & Analytics published Tuesday.
Drones are the most widely used of these emerging technologies, as 21% of all contractors reported using them onsite. Drone use was more prevalent among very large companies, with 36% of companies with 500 or more employees using drones onsite. Seventy percent of the companies using drones said they improve safety, according to the report.
“Drones are used for a variety of purposes onsite, but the most common at this point is to do reality capture with cameras mounted on them,” the report said.
Wearable devices such as smart helmets and badges with coded electronic information are also used onsite by 13% of contractors overall, but 21% of larger contractors reported using them. The report found that 82% of contractors reported that wearable devices have a positive impact on safety.
Laser scanning, an emerging technology used to capture existing conditions electronically, was used onsite by 14% of all contractors. The report found that 76% of those who have made investments in laser scanning, which is “highly accurate, but it is also far more expensive than photogrammetry,” find it improves safety.
The use of building information modeling, a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility, is viewed favorably, with 69% of contractors reporting a positive impact from BIM compared to 42% during a 2012 study. Contractors who use BIM consistently use more safety practices and experience more benefits from their safety investments, including positive impacts on worker willingness to report unsafe conditions and reduced reportable injury rates.
Mobile tools for safety are widely available on smartphones and tablets, according to the report. Cameras were used by 85% of contractors, which “clearly reflects the power of being able to easily and effectively document and share site conditions and work progress to improve safety,” the report said.
Document sharing and project management apps/software are used by 57% and 49%, respectively, according to the report.
“Making sure all those working on the project have the most up-to-date documents can have safety implications onsite,” the report said. “Project managers can better plan for and address safety concerns when they have greater transparency about onsite issues.”
However, the use of safety inspection and GPS/mapping apps was slightly lower at 42% and 41%, respectively.
“The ability to track equipment and see the location of specific employees through GPS technologies can have strong safety implications,” the report said.
The American Society of Safety Engineers’ executive director Dennis Hudson will retire in April 2018, the association announced on Thursday.