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Ensuring the Safety of Construction Workers on the Road
By Hildy Medina
May 8, 2017
A time-crunched safety manager is in the middle of a walkthrough in a noisy and hectic jobsite. Fifty feet away, a worker clutches his chest and falls to his knees. Within seconds a sensor notifies the manager where he is located and the severity of his injury. In less time than it takes to grab a cup of coffee, the worker is being rushed to the E.R.
Who says you can’t be everywhere at once? Thanks to the latest in smart wearable technology, you can have superpowers. And with tougher regulations in the horizon, like OSHA’s new silica dust rule, staying ahead of the safety curve is not only smart, it’s necessary. Here are the top three games changers that are transforming jobsite safety, not only in the coming months, but years to come.
If your workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica, the new OSHA silica rule will affect you. Designed to protect workers from toxic dust particles, the new regulation is one of the most significant and controversial safety regulations to hit the construction industry in recent years. It aims is to save lives and prevent new cases of silica-related illnesses, among them lung cancer and silicosis, an incurable lung disease.
What does this mean for construction companies?
If a company’s silica dust levels go above the new permissible exposure limits (PELs), chances are it will need to take a look at its current tools and respirators to ensure they meet the new OSHA standards. The methods for measuring silica levels and how to stay under the new legal limit is outlined in Table 1 of the regulation. The table identifies 18 common construction tasks that generate high exposures. For each task, the guideline provides specific engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection needed to be OSHA compliant.
It’s a lot of information to take in and with June 23 fast approaching, it’s vital for construction firms to be up to speed on the new limits, prevention methods, and penalties. The good news is that OSHA is offering some wiggle room to help businesses––notably small companies––by allowing for staggered dates to ensure they meet the requirements; businesses have one to five years to get the right protections in place.
OSHA estimates about 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone. For more information go to: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silicacrystalline/.
While the number of safety regulations have grown steadily over the last decade, by comparison, the number of cutting edge innovations available to the construction industry has grown leaps and bounds. These new safety innovations include smart wearables like bionic suits, smart hard hats, and GPS-enabled vests. These accessories are gearing up to be the construction industry’s high-tech answer to standard safety equipment.
The hefty price and slow development cycles have stalled smart wearable adoption, however, 2017 looks to be the year when they show up on construction jobsites. To make these new gadgets more adoptable, smart wearable makers are infusing them into safety equipment staples.
One example of this new safety technology is the Triax spot-r belt clip. The lightweight sensor, originally developed to track injury data for professional athletes, can track and report worker movement data to the cloud every 10 seconds and provide alerts for trips and falls on the jobsite.
To ease the safety and regulatory challenges facing the construction industry today, more companies are turning to cloud-based software as the go-to tool for tracking, reporting, and managing safety data.
Software paired with a safety culture that empowers and encourages coworkers to be proactive is a powerful tool. This technology-driven alliance takes safety management to a whole new level. For instance, field staff with smartphones and tablets can fill out inspection forms and take pictures to attach to the form; they can also access and share this data in real time to all stakeholders.
In the end, safety issues are identified, recorded, and addressed before an accident occurs, which means a much safer and efficient jobsite.
With the construction safety bar getting increasingly higher each passing year, the industry is ripe for new safety innovations. But for these innovations to stick, companies need to stay informed and proactive about the ever-changing safety landscape.
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