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Drones to Deliver Safer Worksites

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When it comes to safety, using technology is worth the investment. And with drones, they can save lives on the construction site.

The increased use of drones, along with advances in technology, can provide a contractor with diverse capabilities that can improve safety on the job site.

In the construction industry, there is a number of functions drones can fulfil. They are used for site planning and inspection, risk management, safety compliance, monitoring contractor progress, accident prevention and investigation, project security and surveillance, and inspection (quality assurance/quality control). Thus, they are quickly proving to be a valuable asset for construction companies by supporting their approach to safety.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 2.3 million workers die each year across the globe as a result of workplace accidents or work-related diseases. To make matters even worse, 313 million accidents occur on the job yearly, resulting in extended absences from work.

The ILO reports that, on average, one in six of the fatal workplace accidents takes place in the construction sector.

From 2013 to 2016, Australian construction and mining labourers made up the highest proportion of worker fatalities (22% or 27 fatalities), followed by electricians (11% or 14 fatalities), bricklayers, carpenters and joiners (8% or 10 fatalities) and mobile plant operators (8% or 10 fatalities).

Falls from a height accounted for almost a third of all fatalities within the industry, followed by being hit by falling objects (15%) and vehicle incidents (15%).

These statistics are alarming, and fall fatalities remain a big concern. Drones can certainly help to reduce the number of fall-related fatalities and injuries.

“While it would be difficult to know exactly how many roof inspections are performed in Australia each year, I would estimate it is in the hundreds of thousands,” said Lorraine Scott, Director of AirAssess. “Current regulations aside, drones could perform all of these roof inspections, removing a significant amount of personnel working at heights.”

The company caters primarily for the insurance sector, and according to Scott, they are on track to do 30,000 drone-assisted roof inspections this year.

“Currently, drones carry a camera as the primary payload, hence the application is geared toward inspections within the construction industry. However, there is technology enabling drones to carry more, even people, so it’s really up to the imagination as to what drones would be capable of on a construction site (regulations permitting),” said Scott.

Apart from assisting to reduce fall-related incidents, drones can also be used to survey a site. This would further minimise the time a surveyor needs to spend onsite around hazardous machinery.

Falls from a height accounted for almost a third of all fatalities within the industry, followed by being hit by falling objects (15%) and vehicle incidents (15%).

Drones can also live stream images back to the construction manager, WHS officers or engineers, enabling them to monitor construction sites and ensure safety standards are being met.

What’s more, drones can be fitted with a wide array of sensors. These can see far beyond what the naked eye perceives. When a building is close to completion, a drone with a thermal sensor can fly overhead and identify cold and hot spots—areas that might need additional HVAC infrastructure or could pose risks of an electrical fire. A drone with thermal imaging capabilities can also assess the efficiency of a solar panel array, showing any abnormalities. Drones can also detect hazardous substances and report back prior to staff entering the location and placing themselves in harm’s way.

Drones are an affordable option for the collection of visual data. This data can help construction companies stay on top of changing conditions so that they do not impact safety. 

If you liked this article, here are a few eBookswebinars, and case studies you may enjoy:

Drones eBook

Landing Drones in the Business of Construction

Del Amo Construction Study

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