Worker Safety, Technology, and the Future I

By Lisa Bracero, Bender Insurance Solutions

n a dynamic environment with thin margins and continuous change, can adopting safety technology reduce

your company’s injuries and cost of risk? It is simple to suggest that

embracing technology will protect workers and the bottom line. But meaningful impact and return on investment requires identi- fying the right solutions and successfully imple- menting them. Analyzing the total cost

of risk (TCOR) provides a holistic view of costs when considering ROI. TCOR includes personnel and equipment dedicated to protection/safety, insurance premiums and fees, losses that are retained (uninsured, self-insured, and deduct- ibles), lost productivity due to losses/ injuries, and administering the risk management program. Here are three questions to consider when evaluating safety technology:

1. What are the primary risks you are trying to manage? Before you can solve the problem,

you need to know what it is. Consider:  Job Hazard Analysis (JHAs)  Accidents and injuries  Near misses  Emerging or anticipated changes While evaluating past trends is

important, analysis should include emerging and anticipated develop- ments. For instance, as COVID-19 spread, some jobsites had to close for disinfection and all crews were sent home. However, what if they had managed social distancing and contract tracing more tightly? Tey could have limited the number of workers sent home and kept driving the project forward. After risks have been analyzed

and prioritized, you can consider how technology can support your objectives.

2. What technology will help you address the identified risks?

Wearables may be a solution. For

my fellow science fiction and superhero fans, movies foster great imagination about the types and uses of wearable technology. But, if we raised our hands, I bet we would see several Apple watches, Fitbits, or other smartwatches in the air. Many of us are comfortable giving up some privacy to gain the benefits of tracking our exercise, monitoring our heartrate, and recording other data. While a smart-

watch itself may cause safety issues in the field, here are examples of

construction-friendly options:  RFID (radio-frequency identifi- cation) tags in vests or hard hats alert heavy equipment operators to the proximity of ground crew.

 Sensors clipped onto belts track employees’ locations within the jobsite, facilitate immediate notifi- cation of hazards, and identify falls for quicker response time.

 Smart tags provide alerts for social distancing and support contract tracing.

 Applications measure twisting, bending, and jumping, which could lead to injuries if body mechanics are not addressed. Te goal of wearables is not to

discipline employees but to increase safety by reducing accidents and identifying additional training needs. Nevertheless, wearables present privacy and employment-related concerns. It is advisable to involve your attorney, insurance broker and union in the process (as applicable). Tere are many other techno- logical advancements that support

3. How will you effectively use the technology?

Technology is only as good as it is

understood and used. It is important to identify the right type and amount of data that will help each person in the chain to leverage the technology. If it is a wearable, workers need to

know how to use it properly. Safety managers should be able to view results and identify additional training needed. Office teams reviewing the data benefit from understanding how it is developed. Concerns should be discussed with the field team. Engaging the safety committee helps with implementation and the feedback loop.

The Future If we went back in time to 1919, we

would be living in the year that safety hats first became available commer- cially. Edward Bullard’s Hard-Boiled Hat earned him a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Since that time, hard hats have continuously improved as have many other elements of construction and safety. For an investment in safety

technology to pencil out, it needs to create more than interesting data. It needs to lead to results. Hard hats and safety vests have demonstrated their value. I believe that newer wearable technology will find their place as well, and I am excited to see how it develops to support safer and more productive builds. 

Lisa Bracero, CPCU, CRIS, is Construction Risk Advisor, Bender Insurance Solutions. She can be reached at (916) 380-5314 or lbracero@

Associated General Contractors of California 11

safety including drones, robots that walk jobsites and take photos, exoskel- etons that help with lifting, vehicle telematics, and BIM that can be used to identify issues before breaking ground.

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