Increased demand, an aging workforce, and a lack of skilled labor has pushed construction to adopt technology tools to boost safety and efficiency.
Despite strides in the construction industry, jobsites remain hazardous, unpredictable physical environments with limited visibility across resources.
More than one in five private-industry fatalities occur in construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to the human and emotional costs, these accidents negatively impact employee morale, productivity, and overall profitability. Injuries and accidents that cause employees to miss six or more days of work cost U.S. employers almost $60 billion per year, according to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety index.
Fortunately, the construction industry is in the midst of a digital revolution that has far-reaching implications for site safety, risk management and insurance. In one of the least digitized U.S. industries, increased demand, an aging workforce, and a lack of skilled labor has pushed construction to adopt technology tools to boost safety and efficiency.
The right construction technology helps managers and crews communicate, identify and report hazards, and learn from past experience for future projects. Crucially, these technologies allow insurers for the first time to see what is happening at client worksites and with their workforce — how long they’re spending on site, for example, or the distance of a fall — so they can more accurately assess risk, determine coverage, and mitigate losses.
Insurers that stay on top of the latest construction technology trends are at the forefront of data and risk management.
The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled a growing network of data collection points at construction jobsites. In 2017, the adoption of wearables, sensors and drones allowed project leaders and teams to harness valuable field data from workers, equipment, tools and the environment.
With real-time access to what’s happening at the jobsite via the cloud, industry stakeholders can work together to manage people, projects and risk in revolutionary ways.
In 2018, this IoT momentum shows no signs of slowing down. Drones, for example, represent a $45 billion opportunity in construction and are increasingly used to inspect and gather data from previously inaccessible areas such as high-rise structures under construction or roofs in need of repair. By remotely identifying and flagging potential hazards or problem areas, builders can deploy their resources more efficiently and reduce the amount of time spent in high-risk areas or on high-risk tasks. Similarly, environmental sensors can be used to monitor temperature, humidity, or dust levels with the aim of preventing property damage from water leaks or mold growth.
Related: 10 steps to mitigating drone risks on construction sites
For insurance providers, this data helps paint a total picture of risk on site and illuminates the process of identifying risk, determining exposure and necessary coverage, and evaluating costs.
At the same time, wearables and other sensor-based technologies are collecting information from workers and equipment that was previously too expensive or time-consuming to record and aggregate at scale. Wearables give workers new tools to participate in site safety, report a hazard, signal distress, or communicate with their supervisors without limitations like project size or personal cell device. According to Dodge Data & Analytics’ “Safety Management in the Construction Industry” report, 82 percent of contractors using wearable devices believe it has a positive impact on site safety. These devices worn by workers detect and notify safety personnel when a fall occurs and send audible alerts when moving equipment is in proximity of workers or other resources on site. By reducing the time it takes to report an issue and deploy help, these cutting-edge safety technologies reduce the risk of further injury.
In addition, by automatically logging worker activity, equipment usage, safety incidents and site conditions, these solutions create a comprehensive digital record of daily site operations. In the case of an investigation or potentially fraudulent claim, insurers can easily identify who was on site in a given area, how far someone fell and at what force, what the weather conditions were at the time of the incident, and other workers who were nearby, for example. Respondents can upload photos to round out the digital record and worker certification profiles, allowing managers and insurers to ensure proper training and compliance. Instead of having to track down paper reports and interpret the site supervisor’s notes, insurers can see easily — and accurately — what happened on the site that day and can use it during the claims administration process.
With IoT-enabled collection and transfer of field data, the construction industry is able to overcome traditional visibility and communication challenges between the jobsite and the corporate office. As more data is collected and stored in the cloud — and no longer locked in paper reports — advanced data analytics will increasingly predict and mark risky behaviors or trades, helping to prevent incidents. With historical records of man hours and incidents by worker, trade, subcontractor and project site, the industry can take a proactive, real-time approach to risk management.
Related: Construction could be the next target for cyber threats
Ultimately, the ability to reduce loss frequency and loss severity through real-time data will drive cost savings and subsidies for contractors leveraging these technologies. When it comes to safety, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that workers return home safely at the end of the day. The subsequent cost savings will help further adoption of cutting-edge safety solutions.
Construction technology is a game changer for the insurance industry. By providing a real-time view into jobsites for the first time, and collecting and sharing key data, technology is driving critical safety and process improvements. And, it allows insurers to more accurately assess risk, determine liability and mitigate fraud, reduce costly claims and improve the overall bottom line.
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