In recent years, safety has globally become increasingly important on the construction site. Headlines like
“Struck-by fatalities most prevalent in construction industry”
are alarming – not only on a personal level but also economically.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work specifically launched a wiki with regards to occupational safety and health matters. According to this platform, there are two main risks related to construction machines:
Some recent studies further confirm that mortality rates of workers in the construction industry have reached a new high. As such, the WSH institute (Workplace Safety and Health Institute) just recently published an estimated 380,500 deaths from occupational injuries worldwide. More specifically, in the US there has been stated a total of 553 fatalities as a result of being struck by powered non-transport vehicles and 697 fatalities due to falling to a lower level by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Both numbers reached its peak in 2016 compared to previous years.
It is thus not surprising that international institutions and associations now call for transnational collaborations to increase safety and health at work. As such, the International Labour Organization just recently published an international newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety promoting that “certain OSH challenges are also global challenges that require global solutions”.
Similarly, the European Sectoral Social Partners for the construction industry in cooperation with the Committee for European Construction Equipment has launched an initiative for ‘working safer with earthmoving machines’.
While the attention in the media and governmental agendas could not be higher, the construction sector is substantially transforming at the same time. Since construction machines are a considerable source of preventable accidents, machine manufacturers and safety technology experts now work together to develop new methods to increase worker safety. Let’s have a look at how to reduce the two major Safety and Health Risks at the Construction Site as defined by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work earlier
To prevent accidents with construction machines due to lack of visibility, it is beneficial to equip a machine, e.g. an excavator with visibility aids. Just to mention a few: wide angle mirrors, 360° surround cameras or sensing aids. Read more about these solutions on the official site of the Health and Safety Executive.
Furthermore, the use of machine controls that accelerate an ergonomic operation are common to keep the operator in the cabin and thus away from the hazardous environment of the construction site. Surveyors for example always move in a potentially dangerous zone where vehicles pass all the time. Also, some machines require the operator to leave the cabin to make some adjustments. This puts him/her in the busy and potentially dangerous zone while increasing the chance of injuries by reaching through machine parts. In contrast, a machine control automates certain processes that can comfortably be carried out from the driver’s cabin. As such, MOBA’s earthmoving machine controls have all been developed with a focus on usability. Manual surveying and adjustments thus is reduced to a minimum. With the 3D excavation control system Xsite® PRO you can even save up to 90% of manual surveying work.
Another recent development on the construction site helping to prevent accidents is Building Information Modeling (BIM). The use of digital models will let the machine operator know where he/she must expect sewers, and gas, water or electrical pipes. Imagine an excavator operator misjudges the exact position of a sewer or pipe, dredges too deep and damages something. This is not only a considerable safety hazard for him/her but also for all workers on the site. When the damage remains undetected, it even remains dangerous on the long run, much alike a ticking time bomb. This is one of the reasons why modern technologies are advanced to further improve processes on the construction site – with a special attention to both efficiency and safety. One technology to implement BIM on the construction site is e.g. the 3D excavation control Xsite® PRO. The system has already successfully been used in quite some pilot projects, with the most recent project situated in Tampere, Finland.
There are several types of accidents that can happen when working with aerial work platform, lifters or cranes. One of the most devastating scenarios among them is a tipping machine. This is the reason why there are constantly evolving new standards to prevent such accidents. One of the most recent updates has taken place in the USA and Canada with the implementation of the new norm A92.
A comprehensive and intelligent load control thus is one of the most crucial applications a lifting machine should be equipped with. Especially when human lives are at stake. Imagine an aerial work platform that only has a limited place available on the ground and constantly needs to change the position of the basket. Since the operator cannot know what the machine is capable of, the safety application of the machine must perfectly work and react. Before a dangerous situation can even happen, the system needs to block or trigger an emergency shutdown or similar. It thus is crucial for the application to work reliably - always. Since safety on the construction site is a major priorities, MOBA safety applications have specially been developed to comply to and even exceed all international safety norms.
But what if the machine fails? The simple answer is: we cannot let that happen. The least we can do is to reduce the risk of a machine failure to a minimum. This is why it is so important to further develop methods and technologies to prevent such situations. One practical solution which has been further evolving in the construction market in recent years is predictive maintenance, made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT). Through the connection of all crucial machine parts with a Cloud, their function can repeatedly be monitored and maintenance work can be scheduled before failures or malfunctions even happen. The additional possibility of a remote support that many companies are offering nowadays will help to fix problems in a short period of time, thereby keeping downtimes as small as possible.
There are many approaches of how to increase work safety in the future. New methods, technologies and applications are constantly evolving. This article rather concentrated on the machine aspect in increasing safety. There are quite some technology experts that already offer a full-service system integration of safety applications. However, the implementation and advancement of new technologies highly depends on several factors.
On the one hand, the acceptance in the market is crucial. Contractors need to conceive the importance and necessity of such technologies while operators need to be trained in their use.
On the one hand, the use and implementation of such systems should be facilitated by authorities and public associations. This includes the implementation of policies that either prescribe or at least promote their use.
To successfully transform the market, all players from work safety and health associations to safety committees, policy makers, machine manufacturers, safety application experts as well as constructors and workers thus all need to work together.