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Will Wearable Technology Transform the Construction Site?

01.03.20  |  By Daniel A. McFaul, Jr.

As technology advances, we see the increasing use of wearable devices in our everyday life.  The most common example is a smart watch that provides instant feedback on our location, health, the distance we walk and even our most frequented locations.  The introduction of wearable technology at construction sites could be a game changer. 

Construction site accidents remain a significant source of potential exposure for all involved in a project including construction managers, contractors, owners and design professionals.  Embracing wearable technology could help to limit potential exposure by improving site safety while boosting productivity and preserving valuable evidence in the event an injury ultimately leads to a lawsuit. 

One such wearable is a tiny lightweight device that clips onto a helmet or belt and does not interfere with the work being performed.  The device contains sensors which are connected to construction management software and it shares, collects, records and analyzes data.  The embedded sensors can help track location and movement of workers, location of equipment or even monitor worker fatigue. 

So the million dollar question is, “How can these devices actually transform the construction site?”  All workers who wear such devices on a site can be tracked at all times.  While that may sound “Big Brotherish”, it can be beneficial both during the course of the project and long after it is complete.  During the project, the data can be used in real time to ensure that workers are performing at maximum efficiency and can alert workers instantly if they enter a restricted area or perhaps walk too close to the edge of a rooftop.  Whether through a site meeting or immediate direction by a supervisor, behavior can be modified to prevent work site accidents including height related falls.

In the event an accident does occur, the stored data obtained from wearable clips will include the precise time of the accident, the location of the worker at the time the accident took place and who may have been in the immediate vicinity when the accident occurred.  This information may be critical if a lawsuit is ever filed by the injured worker years later.  By that time, memories fade, records are lost and incidents may not even have been reported.  However, if the general contractor or construction manager utilizes wearable clips, the accident scene can be recreated to provide important evidence in a lawsuit.  The data can also be analyzed for speed and impact of a claimed fall to assess whether the worker actually fell or simply threw the device on the ground to stage an accident. 

In the not so distant future, insurance companies will likely embrace and perhaps even require their insureds to utilize these devices as insurers do in other industries.  For example, some trucking insurers require insureds to equip trucks with dash board cameras or other driver assistance devices.  In the interim, general contractors and construction managers should consider investing in wearable clips in an effort to limit exposure and increase productivity.  Notably, as technology advances and there is an increase in demand for wearables, the cost should continue to plummet making the cost more palatable for both large and small construction firms alike.

Similarly, owners and design professionals should consider retaining and recommending contractors who utilize wearables since it is in their own best interest to ensure the project moves forward both efficiently and safely.  Inevitably, if a lawsuit is commenced after a project, whether for personal injury, property damage or delay, the data and information preserved during the project may just provide the necessary evidence needed for a successful defense.  

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