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Written by
on 07 September 2018

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Devices like the Apple Watch may sound like a gimmick, but they could help raise standards on construction sites. Which can only be a good thing – Right?

The market for wearable technologies – like smart watches – is mainly consumer focused. Next time you’re at the airport, take a look at how many people are wearing Apple Watches for instance.

But wearables are not just a gimmick – there are genuinely useful potential applications in the industry too, including construction.

Making site monitoring smart

Over the course of a construction site, some areas will become “out of bounds” while particularly dangerous operations take place. But no matter how much you tell workers to avoid these areas, or how well marked they are, some will still enter by accident or stupidity.

GPS technology – the same used to direct your journey from A to B in the car – can help. Using “geofencing” you can create a no-go zone on a digital map. The GPS technology built into wearables can then be used to detect these geofences automatically and alert the wearer that they have entered a danger zone. At the same time, an automated warning is sent to the site operator to let them know that someone has is in danger, and who that person is.

But not every activity is confined to a specific zone. Heavy machinery like backhoes or trucks presents a significant risk to workers as they move around the site. Caterpillar has developed a system called “CAT Detect Personnel” to assist.

Using wireless tags affixed to machinery and sewn into clothing like hi-vis vests or hard hats, people and vehicles become “aware” of each other. If the tag attached to a person comes too close to the tag attached to a vehicle, a loud alarm sounds in the cab and outside, giving everyone an additional indication that they are in imminent danger.

Protecting employee health

For principal contractors that take a holistic approach to employee wellbeing (as they all should), wearables also offer an opportunity to monitor general health. Smartwatches provide a way to measure pulse for instance, and other devices are available to monitor blood pressure – or even if a worker has fallen over.

Deploying these wearables on site provides early warning of potential problems, such as workers who may be dangerously ill, or have experienced an unreported accident. Monitoring and following-up these factors allow employees to identify and deal with hidden health problems, or to prevent non-reporting of serious incidents that could affect other workers.

The biggest drawback of Wearables

Deploying consumer wearables is unlikely to work, very well, unfortunately. The Apple Watch is designed to survive the bangs and bumps of day-to-day life, not the dust, grime and bashes associated with a construction site.

Ruggedised wearables are under development, but it may be a while before they become commonplace on construction projects in the UK.

To learn more about how to raise standards before construction wearables become commonplace, please give Veritas Consulting a call.

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David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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