Wearables – Advancements in onsite safety
The Construction Innovation Hub’s mission is to create better outcomes for future and current generations by driving digital approaches that improve the delivery, resilience and performance of infrastructure. One of the ways in which this will be achieved is by creating greater resilience within industry itself. The more resilient industry is, the better its outputs will be.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented industry with a number of difficult challenges, most notably on construction sites themselves. As the country went into national lockdown, construction sites closed and work was halted on projects to keep everyone safe. When allowed to reopen after the initial lockdown, sites had to comply with strict Government measures and Construction Leadership Council’s guidelines for workers to maintain two metres distance from each other whilst on site.
Aware of how challenging it is to adhere to social distancing measures on a busy construction site, where individuals often work side by side and human traffic flow around the site is high, and with a desire to ensure the personal safety of construction workers, a team of research engineers at Hub founding partner, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), began to explore how digital approaches could be implemented to help workers remain safe and protected, and keep industry moving.
The goal for the team was to find a workable solution to help construction workers maintain a two-metre distance from each other whilst on site. They required a device that could both measure distance between individuals and provide notification when that gap dropped below two metres.
Eleksen Wearable Technologies
The team conducted quantitative laboratory evaluations and qualitative user trials at MTC’s own HQ facilities with devices procured from Bump Technologies and Eleksen Wearable Technologies. The presence of large metallic structures, ‘always-on’ machines and other tracking systems that could cause interference made it an ideal test site.
Following the discoveries made within MTC’s own laboratories, and with the easing of COVID restrictions reducing the need for social distancing on site for virus-safety measures, further trials and testing are underway with Hub partners HS2 and National Highways, as well as, Skanska UK, to explore whether there is any quantifiable data that the technology has a positive impact on wider site safety, with a full research report being collaboratively published by the group when testing concludes. This type of technology may have scope to improve general health and safety within construction, for example by potentially reducing the risk of onsite injury related to unintentional safety zone breaches.
Despite initially being conceived as a solution to social distancing measures as a result of the COVID pandemic, results from the trials suggests that this type of technology may be suitable to play a role for construction sites as a means to improve general safety, as well as to protect against any potential future social distancing measures being reintroduced. Improving the general safety of construction workers on site would help to increase overall performance and ultimately enhance industry’s resilience.
Although the catalyst for utilising this wearable device was the COVID pandemic, there’s a huge realm of possibility for the technology to positively impact the safety and wellbeing of construction workers more generally. Initial testing and results indicate that it could help to improve, and indeed save, lives.”
Senior Research Engineer, MTC