Ask a construction worker what they love about their job, and you’ll probably hear “the money is great” or “I like that I get to be active and work with my hands” or “I look great in orange”. It’s a rewarding career, but not without its challenges and drawbacks; foremost among these is that it’s more dangerous than trying to buy a TV at a Walmart in Pensacola on Black Friday. (Steel-toes could come in handy there too.)
It requires working at great heights, operating heavy machinery, dangerous tools, and the constant risk of injury or even death. It makes the National Safety Council’s list of the 10 most hazardous occupations, and tops its list for fatalities.
A lot of the elements that make it so hazardous are more or less inherent to the job. The height at which you work, the weight of the materials, the sheer number and danger of the tools needed, how tenuous and unformed the structure being worked on is – these aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What is within our control, and is worth focusing our safety efforts on, is the way we communicate hazards in an effort to minimize risk. So let’s talk about some of the top tools and tricks to foster effective communication using technology.
Accessibility and Accuracy
From mobile apps to wearable devices, there are numerous tools available that can enhance communication between workers, site supervisors, project managers, and other stakeholders. Regardless of the tool, or combination of tools, you choose, they all increase communication in the same ways:
Prompt Communication and Response: Digitizing jobsite communication enables real-time information sharing, allowing for more immediate communication and response to safety concerns or hazards. It’s also a clever workaround for one of the top barriers to communication on the jobsite – noise pollution.
Whether it’s a worker on the ground (or slightly higher than that) or a project manager in the office, they can quickly exchange information and discuss any issues that may arise. This real-time communication not only saves time but also enables the quick resolution of problems, leading to smoother operations and increased productivity on the jobsite.
Centralized and Accessible Documentation: Digital documentation makes safety-related information easily accessible to all stakeholders, ensuring that safety protocols, procedures, and regulations are readily available and can be consistently followed. Cloud-based sharing and storage provide a centralized location for teams to share plans, drawings, and updates. Instead of relying on physical copies or multiple email chains, everyone involved in the project can access the latest information with ease.
Efficient Collaboration: Digital tools facilitate collaboration among team members, allowing them to work together more effectively on safety planning, hazard identification, and risk assessment. One example of how technology improves jobsite communication is through the use of real-time messaging platforms. These platforms allow for instant communication between team members, regardless of their physical location.
The centralized nature of digital documentation mentioned above is a huge asset to collaborating effectively. You can ensure that everyone is on the same page by having only one version – a virtual page. This reduces the risk of miscommunication or outdated information causing delays or errors.
Improved Safety Outcomes
So, you’re working smarter thanks to digital communication. What about safer? Digitizing jobsite communication and documentation can significantly improve safety outcomes. You already know what to do, and how to do it. It’s not intention or action that’s lacking, but the medium that’s failing you. Here’s how digital does it better:
Efficient and Accurate Communication: Digitizing jobsite communication allows for fast, real-time exchange of information between workers and other stakeholders, such as engineers, project managers, and safety personnel. Prompt notification and coordination of safety measures, potential hazards, and emergency procedures helps reduce the risk of accidents and ensure timely responses.
Enhanced Collaboration: Digital tools facilitate seamless collaboration among team members, enabling them to share safety-related documents, plans, and updates instantly. This promotes a collective and proactive approach to safety, as everyone has access to the latest information and can contribute to identifying and addressing safety risks.
Centralized Documentation: Digitizing documentation creates a centralized and easily accessible repository of safety-related documents, such as safety plans, risk assessments, and equipment inspection records. Only the most current and relevant safety information is readily available to workers, promoting adherence to safety protocols and procedures.
Real-time Updates and Auditing: Digital documentation allows for real-time updates and tracking of safety-related activities and inspections. This enables supervisors and safety officers to monitor and ensure compliance with safety standards and regulations. In the event of an incident or accident, the ability to provide real-time documentation can help demonstrate due diligence and adherence to safety protocols.
Data Analysis and Insights: Digitized documentation generates valuable data that can be analyzed to identify safety trends, potential hazards, and areas for improvement. By analyzing data related to safety incidents, near misses, and compliance with safety protocols, you can proactively implement preventive measures and adjust safety protocols to enhance safety outcomes in future projects.
Real Risk Assessment, in Real Time
Common pieces of documentation used on the jobsite, like site-specific erection plans, safety plans, equipment inspection records, and lift plans, are central to safety efforts. That’s why it’s so essential to make them digitally available rather than using paper, where information is subject to being lost, inaccessible, or growing rapidly obsolete. Some of the advantages of digitizing your documents:
Accessibility and Portability: Digital documentation can be easily accessed and shared on various devices, such as smartphones and tablets, making it readily available to all stakeholders involved in the project, regardless of their physical location. Whether you’re in the office, at ground level, or forty stories up, you can access potentially life-saving information about safety protocols and equipment details.
Real-time Updates: Digital documentation allows for real-time updates and revisions. Changes can be easily made and communicated to the team, ensuring that everyone has access to the most up-to-date information. This helps to prevent errors or confusion due to outdated documentation.
Enhanced Organization and Searchability: Between typing a few words in a search bar, or navigating a multi tabbed white SDS manual with an outdated table of contents (assuming you can even find said SDS binder) there’s no contest for which gets you the information you need faster. Digital documents can be organized using folders, tags, and search functions, making it easier to locate specific information when needed. This saves time and reduces the risk of misplacing important documents.
Integration with Other Digital Tools: Digital documentation can be integrated with other software and tools used in the construction industry, such as building information modeling (BIM) software or project management platforms. This integration helps streamline workflows and allows for seamless information transfer between different systems.
Digital Due Diligence
You’re working smart, and you’re working safe, but accidents happen. Digital documentation can help construction companies stay compliant and prove due diligence in the event of an incident or accident:
Easily accessible and understandable incident and accident data: With digital documentation, incident and accident reports can be easily recorded, organized, and accessed. This enables companies to have all the necessary data at hand to demonstrate compliance.
Real-time Incident Reporting: When something does go wrong, you want to know about it as soon as possible with real-time reporting of incidents and accidents. This ensures that information is captured promptly and accurately. It also provides an opportunity to quickly communicate and address any immediate safety concerns.
Consistent and standardized reporting: With digital documentation, companies can establish consistent reporting templates and workflows. This ensures that all necessary information is captured uniformly, making it easier to analyze trends and identify areas for improvement.
Data integrity and preservation: Digital documentation reduces the risk of data loss or tampering. Data can be securely stored and backed up, ensuring its integrity and availability in case of an audit or legal proceedings.
Integration with compliance management systems: Digital documentation can be integrated with compliance management systems, enabling companies to streamline their compliance processes. This integration allows for better record-keeping, tracking of corrective actions, and monitoring of compliance performance
Talking to the Outside World
Technology’s uses extend beyond the jobsite to improve communication with clients, suppliers, subcontractors, regulatory authorities and other stakeholders. Ensuring that all parties involved are well-informed and aligned with the project’s requirements and timelines can help prevent disputes by promoting transparency and creating a single source of truth.
There are also safety implications to maintaining open lines of communication with clients, subcontractors, and others. Sharing important project information, such as changes in design or schedule can impact the safety of the workers. By keeping all parties informed and involved, potential risks can be identified and addressed before they become a threat to the workers’ safety.