High-Tech Jobsite Wearables
While equipment on the jobsite has had a tech up grade from year to year, the workers personal protection equipment (PPE) has seen little difference over the years. But that change is in the works. The biggest hurdle for wearables to be a common sight is the cost; nonetheless it’s in our future. The technology incorporated into PPE that’s already worn on every job has the potential to improve most importantly safety, which goes hand in hand with communication followed by efficiency.
Looking at PPE from head to toe, let’s start with the hardhat. A tool used to protect our heads from injury incurred by falling objects or bumping into dangerous object. Some current smart hardhats include detection systems that report an impact or fall; while others have imbedded carbon monoxide detecting systems into the hardhat. Stepping the tech up to the next level, one firm has developed a smart helmet called DAQRI. It includes a visor for displaying 3D visual overlays in the field of vision. In order to see the worker’s entire surroundings, it has a wireless camera with 360° rotation. This would also allow remote team members to travel along with the wearer in real time to assess situations that may need their attention.
Visors on hardhats are one option for replacing glasses in the field. The other are smart glasses which can augment the realty around the worker, such as accessing plans or viewing an interactive model for the next step in the building process and identifying possible discrepancies in the field. These smart glasses can display instructions, insight, or alerts to the wearer as they operate tolls or machinery, connect fasteners, and perform various tasks.
The next layer of PPE includes the safety vest. Visually it stands out in its safety orange or yellow with its stripes of reflective material. Researchers at Virginia Tech are working on adding a radio sensor that would connect with vehicle technology. The product dubbed InZoneAlert would alert both the worker and the driver of an impending collision. The warning would allow both parties to correct the situation, thus saving lives. Radio sensors would be especially important for any construction occurring in the street but also has benefits extending to vehicles moving about the jobsite. As trucks and workers maneuver throughout the site, both would be warned of any impending collisions between the two. To ensure such warning would be heard on the noisy, busy construction sites, such ideas have emerged like touch sensors that would shrink the cuff on sleeves.
Making the vest even smarter would be implementing technologies that could monitor vitals, body temperature, repetitive motions that lead to potential injury, and GPS locating devices. The GPS would also assist superintendents with tracking workers movements across the jobsite and locating a missing person if a major accident had occurred.
Some of this technology is years away from being seen regularly on jobsites but many are being prototyped in the field as we speak with positive results. With safety at the forefront of everyone’s mind these wearables will one day soon be the standard for workers.