Advancing the Industry: Female-Led Innovation Impacting Safety

May 7, 2021 Lauren Ginsberg

The construction industry is inherently dangerous. Heavy machinery and equipment, moving objects, and working at height, all pose potential risks and hazards for construction workers. However, advancements in technology help reduce the threat of incidents on the jobsite and improve overall construction safety.

At the helm of safety innovation are female-led and inspired initiatives, applications, and programs. And while women represent only 10% of the total construction workforce and a minuscule 1.2% of the trade force, they have contributed significantly to advancing the construction industry — specifically around safety. 

Here are four trends that women are driving forward with initiatives, applications, and programs that impact construction safety

4 Trends Impacting Construction Safety 

1. Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence 

Founded in 2016, Versatile, Inc. (Formerly Versatile Natures) is a startup that leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize construction processes by capturing jobsite performance data. 

Co-founder and CEO, Meirav Oren, is passionate about challenging the status quo to improve the lives of others. Noticing a gap in construction technology that helps teams safely accelerate project schedules, Versatile was born. Versatile’s technology seamlessly integrates into existing processes by mounting IoT sensors under the hook of a crane to capture and analyze project data to drive more informed decision-making. The application also improves site safety by providing more visibility into what’s happening on the jobsite at all times.

2. Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is gaining traction in construction as a training tool due to its ability to create realistic simulations without putting workers in danger. By navigating potential jobsite hazards in a virtual environment, teams can gain hands-on experience. And according to research from PwC, VR increases retention and drives positive outcomes. The report shows that those taught in VR demonstrated 340% more confidence to employ what they learned versus traditional e-learning methods at 10%. 

Pepper Construction is one company leading the way in creating a safer jobsite by using VR for safety training. Jen Suerth, Vice President of Technical Services at Pepper Construction, and her safety team decided to use VR to improve safety, an area that has been stagnant across the industry. 

Using its site statistics, Pepper Construction created customized training modules to coach workers by “doing” on its top safety trends observed on the jobsite. Based on the training, Pepper Construction saw a reduction in safety incidents on-site. For their approach to using VR to positively impact safety on the jobsite, Pepper Construction was the recipient of a 2021 AGC Construction Innovation Award.

Watch Jen’s countdown of the top five benefits of using VR to improve safety on the jobsite:

 

3. Safety Applications

There are many safety applications geared towards the construction industry, but few are designed specifically for the field.

eMOD, a construction safety app “built for the field, by the field” aggregates and tracks checklists, incident reports, toolbox talks, safety audits, crew profiles, and more on one dashboard. Co-founded by Kaitlin Frank, a superintendent at Dome Construction and ConstructionDive 2021 construction champion, eMOD drives accountability and creates transparency between the jobsite and the office, ensuring safety is the number one priority. With safety documents tracked in one location, teams can confidently and quickly find information to meet OSHA compliance. 

Currently, eMOD has more than 10,000 users and 500 companies using the application equaling more than 18.5 hours saved between safety officers, superintendents, and forepersons.

4. Better-fitting PPE 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to personal protective equipment (PPE). Poorly fitting PPE is a safety hazard. Too loose, and it can get caught in machinery, too tight, and it can be uncomfortable to wear. The dangers of ill-fitting PPE outweigh the protection it provides when used. 

Proper fitting PPE – for all bodies (harnesses, gloves, etc.)  – is a must to create a safe and inclusive environment. Skanska, Plaza Construction, and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. are three leading examples of firms already taking strides to provide proper fitting PPE for women. 

And in March 2020,  Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) partnered to drive this movement forward by funding a grant program to supply 21 construction firms with more than 300 fall protection safety harnesses designed for women who work at height. The applicant pool represented general contractors, specialty contractors, and specialty providers representing approximately 22,000 employees. 

On May 5, 2021, OSHA and AGC highlighted the importance of preventing falls in construction, acknowledging the contractor members who were recipients of the 2020 AGC/Autodesk Safety Harness Grant. Here is a link to the webinar if you missed it.

Developing a Strong Construction Safety Culture

Technology has spurred many innovations in construction that improve safety, but safety is personal and starts with people. Trust is a critical component in creating a successful construction safety culture.

Building a construction safety culture begins with changing how safety is discussed and encouraging transparency and consistency across your organization. By emphasizing the importance of safety, you will inherently create safety champions supported by technology to feel confident and safe about the work they’re doing.

safety toolkit

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