Technology, Construction, and COVID-19


Innovative Technology to Keep Construction Sites Safe against COVID-19

Though COVID-19 limitations have led to economic and business downturn, the Government has gradually started to lift the restrictions. With the phased opening, construction across the United States is underway, and to avoid spread of infection, new safety guidelines and worksite protocols have been created.

Though the construction companies could take advantage of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central based construction management software for keeping track of business data, but it cannot help construction companies, contractors, and construction associations with defining policies and procedures that can improve safety at the site. Since most of these are based on the guidelines of Federal Health Agencies like OSHA, CDC, and WHO, the most difficult part is implementation. Moreover, the guidelines have addressed workers to align with procedures like social distancing, wearing gloves & masks, prevent the sharing of equipment or tools, and ensure maximum hygiene and sanitization.

Also, these guidelines have ensured that employees who are immuno-compromised will continue to abide by stay at home orders, while those who are not immuno-compromised will be able to work in staggered shifts while maintaining social distancing. In simple words, these rules have circulated the idea of social distancing and exposure tracking. But still, there are certain jobs and worksites which may make it challenging to align with these rules since using thermal screening at entry points or maintaining social distancing are not enough to track the infected.

The nature of the job i.e. frequent movements of the workers at the site from one place to another has made it very difficult to trace everyone’s movement the entire time. Moreover, working at the site demands numerous interactions with teams and subcontractors which brings the challenge to identify everyone in contact with each other. Though tasks related to the project are streamlined using advanced construction accounting and project management software, the contractors are turning towards technology to drive safety at the site.

Tracking Movement

Determining the need for safety, contractors have switched to advanced technology like IoT. Using wearable bands that run on IoT technology, the recording of workers entering or leaving the site have become automatic. Moreover, the location of workers moving on different sections or floors at the site could be tracked using real-time data from the site.

This will enable project managers to keep track of the volume of workers at a job site, ensuring social distancing regulations are adhered to. Since the data could be easily tracked on the dashboard, it also may reduce the frequency of movement that contractors make and therefore, reduce unwanted exposure.

Social Distancing Assist

IoT devices could be of great advantage to workers as well in maintaining the social distance. This relieves the stress of in-person distance checks between fellow workers. The sensors in the device alarms two people coming in close contact, aligning with social distancing rules at the site. Moreover, these IoT devices could also help transform worker behaviors since maintaining appropriate distance and tracking features would promote site awareness.

Contract Tracing with Wearables

In case a worker is tested to be a confirmed case of COVID-19, the primary concern contractors and project managers face is finding the people who came in contact with the infected worker. This can be a highly consuming activity without technology.

IoT can be a solution to this by recording the data for a person each time he/she came in close contact with the other workers at the site. Since this data could contain information on the duration of contact, the data passed by the worker’s device that has been tested positive could reduce COVID-19 cases at the site. Moreover, all the record keeping of the jobs and resource allocation could be streamlined with Microsoft Construction Management Software which has all the information on shifts which may can make it easy to keep a watch on workers.

Further, this data can also assist the contractors and project managers take necessary steps for safety at the site such as precautionary quarantine for those who had close contact with the person infected. Moreover, this information can also be used to determine if the site is safe for further operations or if it should be temporarily closed as a matter of safety.

Exposure Detection at Entryways

Most of the sites at these times have assigned staff to check every employee who enters or leaves the site to prevent exposure. However, this increases the chances of staff assigned to screening to come into contact with employees who are positive with COVID-19. Nevertheless, IoT enabled smart wearables could reduce this stress by automating the screening process as well as recording the time of entry and leaving the site. Also, this will help expedite the process of check-in at the site which will reduce any crowd at the entryways.

The Crux

Though construction is deemed as an essential service across various states and cities, moving to the construction site and working with people who have come from diverse locations may not be safe. Even if there are safety practices and jobsite protocols to control the spread of exposure, still the idea of contact tracing would require immediate access to technology. This can be worked with the smart use of the existing construction project management accounting software plus technology like IoT.

All in all, to cope up with these unprecedented circumstances, contractors, project managers, and site supervisors need to develop a safer work environment. And as sites are finding a way back to normal operations, technology could play a big role in sustaining a business, while safeguarding health for all.

Stay Safe! Take Care!

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