Construction sites can be very dangerous places to work, with a variety of risks to employees – the threat of falls from a height, crush injuries due to falling or moving objects, of electrocution due to faulty wiring, to name but three examples.
As well as the obvious personal cost to individuals who suffer injuries, there is also a material cost to the project, in terms of delays, damaged equipment, and insurance or damages claims.
Cloud-based solutions are making it easier to properly monitor workers, prevent accidents and reduce the rate of serious injuries and worker deaths.
While all building projects should be run with a culture of ‘safety first’, unfortunately this is not always the case. And even when a project is, it’s very difficult to reduce the risks to zero and accidents can still happen.
Inspections are an essential part of the construction process. If done correctly, they can have tremendous advantages for all project stakeholders. Inspections should provide the certainty that everything is proceeding on-site exactly as it should and both and site and the building are safe for workers and future users.
The basic premise of inspections is that a third party – maybe a manager or supervisor on the project or an independent inspector – will check that work is done in the correct way and will provide documentary evidence for this. If they find any of the work is not up to standard, they will inform the relevant subcontractor or worker and ensure that the work is redone or completed promptly before anyone moves on.
However, typical site inspections come with some drawbacks. For instance, problems found during inspections might be addressed verbally, the inspector will talk to the responsible party and ask them to fix the issue with no written documentation involved. This can lead to misunderstandings and mean the problem is not fully fixed, storing up safety problems for later.
Stakeholders may interact by email, texts or even Whatsapp – meaning the project owners have no control over the flow of information and whether it is correct or even happens at all. It also presents problems should a worker be injured and there is no documentation to prove that warnings had been issued, or to prove liability, or to get to the bottom of what went wrong and avoid it happening again.
Another common issue is that there is a time delay between the work being done and the work being inspected, and the subcontractor has already packed up and moved on to a different project. This will make it difficult for any problems to be solved to satisfaction, again storing up safety issues for later.
A fact of building sites is that workers are often operating under pressure timewise. If part of a job is supposed to be complete and is at risk of causing a costly delay, workers are more likely to take a chance to get something done quickly than to take their time and follow correct procedure – and that is when accidents happen.
Another fact is that building sites have a lot of personnel coming and going, subcontractors and casual workers might only spend a few days on a site – and this leads to issues with poor familiarity with the site and with workflows. A casual worker is more likely to show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It also means it is difficult for a main contractor to know the level of training that everyone on his building site has received.
And problems lead to more problems – if a project site is not managed efficiently as a whole, small problems are more likely to lead to delays, pressure and therefore bigger problems, and greater dangers for workers.
Having an integrated construction software platform helps to improve standards and efficiencies throughout an entire project. And it helps to ingrain a culture of knowledge, accountability and safety into everything that is done. It will lead to a more efficient site, meaning fewer problems, less time pressure, so less incentive to cut corners.
When it comes to inspections, it means that information about work progress is shared in real-time, cutting any delay between work being finished and the inspection taking place, and reducing problems that arise from this. It also enhances and documents all interaction between the inspector and subcontractors, meaning there’s a record of all directions regarding work that needs to be redone or fixed. There’s less chance of misunderstanding around the scale or nature of the problem and the work needed to fix it. The ability to include photos in any interaction helps with clarity.
Once a digital solution is in use, everyone is working from a position of knowledge – easier communication and collaboration means that workers can be given detailed plans of the site before they even arrive so they can know exactly what the job entails and what equipment and safety requirements will be involved. There is greater and more immediate accountability, meaning subcontractors know they will not get away with sub-standard work. And having access to information in the field means workers are less likely to take a chance – they can find out what they need instantly, without the delay of maybe leaving the site to check a drawing back in head office or going to find a certain individual to ask a particular question. With a digital solution, they can proceed with their task promptly and safely with the knowledge they need.
A digital solution means main contractors can keep tabs on everyone on-site, casuals included, and it makes it easier for workers to easily report on-site hazards or unsafe conditions, enabling a quick resolution.
And the fact that everything is documented in real time means that should something go wrong, an injury or accident, project leaders are able to gain greater insight into what caused it and prevent it from happening again.