The construction industry has begun to adopt wearables — devices that can be worn on the body to provide extra information to the user. This equipment, which includes smart hard hats and boots, can make worksites much safer.

Over the past few years, the construction industry, while often slow to accept new technology, has begun to adopt some of the latest breakthroughs.

Wearables — devices that can be worn on the body to provide extra information to the user, or to collect essential data — have gone from being a fad to a major industry in their own right. Now, having been applied to other sectors like healthcare, this technology is starting to appear in the construction industry.

Here’s how companies can use wearables to improve site safety:

Smart Optics Keep Workers Up to Date

Smart hard hats include optical elements and can provide users with flexible heads-up displays in addition to protection. These displays offer easy access to information about site conditions or allow on-site managers to share documents with other workers. Some systems can also overlay instructions and 4D models of the completed project over the worksite.

These features keep all staff on the same page, reducing the risk of errors during the construction process and ensuring that all workers know where they need to be. The heads-up displays also lessen the need for bulky or cumbersome equipment, like rubberized laptops.

These visors provide alerts that notify workers and management when conditions have become too dangerous. They also offer updates on site status, as well as heads-up emergency communications from management and workers. Advanced models come with camera arrays that provide 360-degree sensing, a technology that can give workers minute-to-minute updates on their full surroundings — potentially alerting them to safety issues they may not have noticed. 

Tracking Workers With Smart Equipment

Other wearables allow site managers to track workers, and can automatically send out alerts about potential safety issues. Some popular construction wearable companies offer passive RFID tags embedded in hard hats, hi-vis vests, and other safety equipment.

These tags provide several different safety advantages. For example, one application audibly alerts operators when a worker is walking behind their machine, reducing the risk of an accident. This RFID-based system can offer advantages over other systems that rely on movement detection, as they can often yield false positives, altering machine operators even when there are no workers in harm’s way.

Over time, these false alerts can lead machine operators to mistrust or ignore warnings — reducing their effectiveness and potentially making worksites less safe. Because RFID systems detect the motion of tags in worker equipment, however, they’re more likely to alert operators only when workers are in their paths.

Other companies offer more robust systems — like specially-designed smart boots and safety sensors — that come equipped with features like GPS sensors and inertial measurement units.

These sensors can prevent common construction site accidents — like falls, the primary cause of fatal injuries in construction. The combination of inertial measurement units and GPS tracking can detect sudden changes in elevation that can signify a fall. Some of these devices also allow workers to call for help with a button on a worn device. These features work together to ensure that fallen workers receive medical attention after an accident as quickly as possible.

Other systems let site managers see where workers are, which can help maInagers ensure their team is out of harm’s way. In the case that a site or building needs evacuated, managers have constant access to location data, allowing them to manage the movement of workers better and ensure all site workers get to safety.

Some of these wearables can also monitor vital signs of employees. Even if an individual on-site can’t ask for help, the system can send out an automatic alert if their vitals move beyond a set threshold.

Making Construction Sites Safer With Wearable Technology

While the construction industry has been slow to adopt new tech in the past, things are beginning to change. New wearable technology, like smart visors, hard hats and work boots, are improving construction site safety by providing workers with better information about their surroundings and other team members.

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