How Drones Can Increase Safety in the Construction Industry
By Andrew Wahl, CEO
There is no denying that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous fields to work in. In a study done by OSHA, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, there were 4,674 worker fatalities in 2017. 20.7% of those fatalities were construction related, most of those being due to falls. These fatalities and injuries cost construction and insurance companies millions of dollars per year. Construction Companies should do anything in their power to reduce workplace injuries and that is where drones can have a lasting impact. Drones can help monitor a construction site, be used to help train employees, and assist in keeping employees out of dangerous situations.
Large construction sites are difficult to oversee, especially using traditional on the ground tactics. Due to time constraints and the complexity of the sites, it is difficult to monitor everything that is going on. You can use drones with live streaming capabilities to work with construction management in real time and paint a better picture of the entire site.
Daily site inspections should be done at the beginning and end of every day. At the start of the day, it is important to check out site conditions. This will help construction management know what areas of the jobsite their employees and sub-contractors should avoid that day, giving them insight into things such as ground stability and weather conditions. If your construction equipment were to get stuck in a muddy area of the site, not only are you losing time and money with downed equipment, you are putting employees in danger when they have to use another piece of heavy machinery to get the original equipment out of the mud.
During the day, monitoring safety is important to eliminate risk and potential liability for your construction company. Consistently having a drone on site with construction management will help them monitor what is going on throughout the day and thus plan ahead to operate their business more efficiently. Using a drone’s live streaming capabilities can be incredibly helpful for the property manager to be able to watch what is going on and help prevent or stop risky behavior as it is happening.
At the end of the day, construction sites need to be shut down correctly. Each employee has their own job and responsibilities but management either needs to check themselves that everything is how it should be or delegate this task to someone else. This is a time-consuming task that includes walking the entire site. Drones can simplify this task and help make sure that everything is in its correct place. The last thing a construction company wants is something not being put away properly. This error could lead to an injury overnight or in the morning when everyone returns to work.
Aerial monitoring provided by a drone is an effective and efficient way to improve worksite safety but video acquired during the daily overhead surveillance can also be edited and used as a training aide for your employees on a go forward basis.
Consistently providing training your employees is the best way to be proactive about safety and meet local safety requirements. When you bring a new employee to your team, construction companies can have an edited drone video filled with people that are using the correct safety precautions on the job as a part of their safety orientation program. The video can also show things that may not fall in line with your company’s standards of safety. This is a great way to on-board new hires, as some employees may be coming from another company that may not have the same safety standards as your company.
You can also use drone video to help with continuous training of all employees. With drone video, you can illustrate when workers do things incorrectly on the job site and then show them a visual representation of what should be done next time. Examples would include being too close to a machine that is in use or using improper safety precautions on ladders and scaffolding. This can be used in two different ways, companies can be watching in real time using a drone’s live streaming capabilities and you can radio to whoever is in a dangerous spot and help correct the behavior or you can have a video and share what you see with the whole team. This is just like watching film for athletes, it isn’t meant to be a punishment but it is so we can learn from mistakes and prevent accidents in the future.
If an incident does occur and you have been monitoring the site with a drone, that can be used as a very important tool to limit your Company’s liability. If the injury is due to a common mistake that is made on the job site, the construction management team, property manager and foreman of the project can all come together and work together to find a solution to the issue. If the accident is due to an employee making an uncommon mistake, the video can be used to set new guidelines for employees.
There are plenty of reasons that improving safety procedures is important, but an unexpected benefit is increasing profit and efficiency. In the book “The Power of Habit” Alcoa, an aluminum manufacturer, created a habit of safety first and their Company’s profit skyrocketed. In 1987, Paul O’Neil was hired as the new CEO and in his first meeting with investors his opening line was, “I want to talk about worker safety.” He didn’t mention profits, changes in the leadership or anything regarding the business, he wanted his new initiative to be safety. Throughout his first year as CEO and his new safety initiatives, the company created more discipline and ended up seeing record net income. While every plant was focused on safety this created a chain reaction of new, positive habits. Their productivity skyrocketed and by the time he moved on in 2000 Alcoa’s market capitalization rose by $27 billion. Although Alcoa is an aluminum manufacturer, creating a safety initiative in construction is a way that all companies can improve worker satisfaction, reduce days missed by employees due to injuries and in turn, increase profit.
Drones have endless amounts of capabilities that can be used to keep employees out of harms way. If your Constriction Company is not currently using drones then I am sure that you will see them introduced in the very near future. Construction industry inspections can be costly and even worse, deadly. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), falls from ladders, roofs and scaffolding contributed to 39.2% of construction fatalities in 2017. Conventional construction methods would require an employee to be manually sent up to do the inspection; however, aerial drones can reduce the risk of these falls. Drones utilizing thermal imaging cameras can be used to inspect roofs, thereby eliminating the need for an employee climbing on a ladder, walking on a roof and, in turn, help prevent falls.
Gas leaks and explosions can often be a safety concern on the construction site. Gas leaks aren’t always easy to detect and this can be detrimental to safety. Aerial drones can be equipped with specialized thermal camera equipment to detect gas leaks and could be used whenever digging in the proximity of, or installing gas lines.
Inspecting hard to reach areas is something that presents a risk, even for the most experienced construction workers. With areas that are difficult to reach, workers often must use nontraditional methods to get to where they need to be. How many of us have seen someone put a ladder in a very dangerous position or have even done it ourselves when cleaning out our gutters? Often, with bridges workers have to suspend themselves off of the bridge to get under it to perform those inspections. With a drone, that risk can be eliminated and you can use a drone’s live stream capabilities or record a video inspection to accomplish the same task.
It is not a question of “if” you should be using drones to help increase safety in your construction Company but rather how soon can you prioritize the use of drones. As construction companies continue to innovate, TopShot is here to help you and your team decide how to best implement the use of aerial drone technology on your site and get you up to speed.