Technology changing the labour workers’ outfit

Technological advances are changing our everyday experiences in the world. While these shifts translate to each of us in various ways, technology’s ruling force is undeniable.

It’s everything from using your weather App to know that a storm will be brewing later, instead of having to wait for the petrichor.

It’s waking up and popping on your Fitbit in the same moment your feet touch the floor.

It’s receiving text messages on your wrist and sending them with your voice.

For those in the construction industry, technological advances could mean better incident prevention and safer industry practice.

Safe Work Australia’s 2017 report revealed that labourers have the highest incident rate of serious injury and disease claim, translating into 25% of all work-related serious injury claims.[1] This isn’t surprising, as labour work is dangerous work. However, acknowledging the risks of labour work doesn’t make incidents any less devastating for workers, their employers and families.

According to Safe Work Australia, work-related fatality rates have decreased by 49% between 2007 and 2017. This is likely due to proper policy implementation, better conditions for workers and improved training protocol. However, the knowledge that there are still Australian workers leaving for work and not returning home remains gut-wrenching.

The answer to mitigating on-site incidents might be right at your fingertips – assuming you’re reading this from your device.

Technology is being used increasingly to prevent incidents, enhance training and ensure safer conditions for our workers.

In 2015, McKinsey Global Institute released a report naming the construction industry as one of the least digitised industries in America.[2] This demonstrates a gap, and equally, an opportunity.

Some ways technology can be used to minimise risks on the worksite are through wearable technologies.

American company Triax Technologies launched its range of sensor technology in 2017. Simply clipped onto the workers’ tool belts, the sensor detects on-site falls, sends emergency alerts and logs all information, including how far they fell, where and who was nearby to the appropriate site safety personnel.

In an interview with Insurance Business America, Triax Technologies COO, Pete Schermerhorn agrees that there is a disconnect between technology and the construction industry’s relationship.

“You’ve got an incredibly important part of the US and global economy … without the same tech resources that are available in something like manufacturing,” he said.[3]

Construction-work-specific wearables also include smart helmets. These clever helmets include front and rear-facing cameras with depth perception, recording capabilities and real-time communication.[4]

On top of the newly developed plethora of wearables hitting the market, drones are also set to become a favoured tool for enhancing safety in the construction industry.

Construction Dive claims that drones are an efficient alternative to sending workers out to potentially risky locations. The ability to communicate data directly to project supervisors is not only time-efficient, but it mitigates the risks associated with sending workers out to unchartered locations.[5]

Employing the right safety-centred technology could lessen the millions of dollars in annual claims, workplace-related injuries and uncomfortably high incidents borne out of the labour workforce.

If all it means is clipping a sensor onto our tool belts, just like we clip our Fitbits onto our wrists, is it worth it?

Written by Amelia Fynes-Clinton for Globe Group


[1] Safe Work Australia, Key Work Health and Safety Statistics Australia 2017, Safe Work Australia, 2017, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1709/em17-0212_swa_key_statistics_overview_0.pdf, viewed 13 August 2018.

[2] McKinsey Global Institute, Digital America: A tale of the Haves and Have-Mores, McKinsey&Company, 2015, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/digital-america-a-tale-of-the-haves-and-have-mores, viewed 10 August 2018.

[3] Insurance Business America, ‘Wearable tech cuts costs in construction’, Insurance Business America, 11 December 2017, available from https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/opinion/wearable-tech-cuts-costs-in-construction-87373.aspx, viewed 12 August 2018.

[4] J Furlong, ‘5 Technological Advances Revamping the Construction Industry’, Business.com, 5 February 2018, available from https://www.business.com/articles/technology-in-construction-industry/, viewed 10 August 2018.

[5] L Brookes, ‘Why construction companies should embrace technology’, Construction Dive, 10 April 2018, available from https://www.constructiondive.com/news/why-construction-companies-should-embrace-technology/520070/, viewed 10 August 2018.