By Brad Oien, Murow|CM – CMIT, APM / Field Engineer Email: [email protected]
Technology in the construction industry was considered a novel and questionable market only a short time ago, but now, developers and software engineers are seeing construction as the new hotbed for technology.
While it seems as if a new construction oriented software is released weekly, no technology regarding safety is coming out quickly. For example, when is the last time you got a new hard hat with updated technology? Safety technology is still quite limited, but thinking forward will quickly show that many safety specific items are on the horizon and will be quickly adapted. This article will be a brief introduction to some items that may be worn by your crew in the near future. If you’re retiring in the next couple years, you may miss this transition, but for the growing younger generation, these changes may sneak up rapidly.
The safety technology I will focus on is mostly in the form of personal protective equipment (PPE), and is considered a wearable technology. Some companies are developing new potential technologies such as interactive hardhats, which features heads-up displays that can show the project’s plan set and orient the user on the digital plan set. An integrated camera allows the user a 360-degree view which has the potential to prevent many accidents. Combined with new technology from Caterpillar and their telematics systems, the new hardhats have endless potential to work seamlessly with your equipment too. Can you imagine purchasing apps for your hard hat?
Another staple of your PPE is the safety vest. GPS systems in a safety vest could allow an owner or management staff to see where their employees are, and warn the employees when they are in high hazard areas. This could show where your manpower is in real- time and assist with allocating your employees to various jobs. Safety for road work adjacent to cars and other traffic is always a high priority, and soon, the safety vests will be able to create a much safer roadside jobsite. With autonomous vehicles on the horizon, the safety vest could communicate with these cars using the same signals. These signals would automatically tell the car that workers are present and to allow adequate room for safe work. This technology potential is only a few years out. It won’t only be used in driverless vehicles, but also in the semi- autonomous vehicles that are currently in production. These vests may be five to ten years away before they’re readily available, but by then, it may be standard work attire.
More obtainable technology that is available today is the halo light. This is a 360-degree, 276 lumen light that attaches to most typical types of common hardhats. According to their website, this light can be seen by motorists from a 1⁄4 mile away. It has an auxiliary battery pack that lasts up to 12 hours which clips to your tool belt, reducing the amount of weight on the hard hat. The light not only helps you be seen, but also illuminates your work area. This obtainable technology is currently used by many companies and could reduce the risk in any of your nighttime operations.
Let’s quickly jump into the far future and consider something that I hope to try one day; the robotic power suit. This is a powered exoskeleton that could help workers lift heavy loads and per- form work more efficiently. The “exosuit” would prevent injuries such as strains and other related soft tissue injuries, and reduce the need for small equipment. These “exo suits” are currently in testing phases and are primarily geared toward military application. Although, this may be decades away and a little farfetched, it is a neat look ahead into what is possible. Perhaps we will see it replace your skid steer fleeting years!