By Karen Edwards, RT3
The 2020 pandemic changed many things for the roofing industry, including forcing a more rapid adoption of technology to continue our essential work.
What will 2021 bring in terms of technologies in our workplaces and jobsites? Experts predict that the construction industry’s digital shift will continue growing as many technologies become more affordable and mainstream.
One of the easiest technologies to implement is wearables. Wearable technology for construction workers is not a new concept, but has started to grow in popularity. This growth is likely due to the costs decreasing as the technology improves. Construction Global predicts that the wearable technology industry will be worth $54 billion by 2023, doubling its 2018 value. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicated in 2018 that just 6 percent of contractors were using wearable technology, and their prediction was that number would increase to 23 percent by 2021.
Here are some of the wearables we will see on more jobsites in 2021:
- Safety vests and hard hats with sensors. One of the biggest benefits to wearable technology is worker safety. High visibility safety vests and hard hats equipped with sensors can detect if workers are tired and alert them of the need to take a break. Some can sense body temperature and can send a warning to workers to take a few minutes in the shade and drink some water. The other advantage to this connected PPE is the ability to track where each worker is at any time on the jobsite. Not only does this improve safety, it also can play an important role in contact tracing should a team member contract COVID-19.
- Smart watches. Many of us wear smart watches that let us see text messages or who is calling with just a glance at our wrist. Smart watches can play a key role in worker safety on construction sites too. Smart watches are hands-free, allowing workers to make a phone call or respond to a text message using just their voice. Smart watches are also helpful for monitoring heart rate and step count — and some can even record an electrocardiogram of heart rhythm to detect potential heart problems. Many contractors provide employees with a smart phone for work and 2021 could be the year that the smart watch also becomes standard issue.
- Smart boots. Foot protection has always been an important piece of safety gear for workers, but now the work boot is getting smarter through sensors. Smart boots can detect pressure that happens from a fall or a small shock and call for help immediately. In addition, the smart boots are GPS-enabled to track where workers are on the site and help reduce the amount of time spent in potentially unsafe areas by alerting the worker that they are near that hazard.
- Safety Glasses. Safety glasses are a standard requirement on work sites, and now they can do more than provide eye protection. The glasses use augmented reality to supply computer-generated imagery onto the worker’s physical surroundings in real time. Workers will benefit from being alerted to jobsite hazards, such as locations of leading edges and from being provided visual safety information related to equipment operation and safe material handling.
- Belt sensors. Workers can attach a smart sensor to their belts that provides many of the benefits of the other smart safety equipment – location tracking, sensing trips or falls — and it can only be monitored on that specific jobsite. It features a push-button safety alert that allows workers to call for help or report a safety incident. Site managers get a real-time headcount on the jobsite network, can track worker-hours, and they will know if a worker leaves the site because the sensor disconnects from the network and enters sleep mode.
If you want to learn more from contractors who are using these technologies and how to implement them in your business consider becoming part of the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3) Community to network and learn from roofing industry technology leaders.