Answers to Common Questions About Safety Technologies

Nov. 4, 2022
Answers to common questions
By Casey Banks,Managing Risk Control Consultant, Travelers

Q: What are the most prominent safety technologies contractors are using?

A: Although this can depend on the type and size of the contractor, some of the most prominent safety technologies being used include digital and mobile tools, such as project management or safety inspection software. We are also seeing an increase in the use of advanced technologies, including wearables, sensors, AI tools and extended-reality platforms. In many cases, the benefits of these technologies can extend beyond safety and address other risks, such as potential water damage and theft prevention.

Q: How can safety technologies benefit contractors?

A: Using technology can help contractors address various pain points, including production, quality and safety. Technology can also help to manage other industry concerns, such as labor shortages, by increasing efficiencies. For example, the integration of robotics, 3-D printing and modular construction has helped contractors supplement existing workforces.

We’ve also seen that safety technologies can help to mitigate and manage risk both on individual job sites and across the broader organization. Wearable technology, for example, allows contractors to better identify and address struck-by and fall hazards though the use of sensors on workers and equipment.

Q: What's driving the trend toward safety tech?

A: Some of this trend is being driven by the significant advances in technology over the past several years. Many vendors have recognized the opportunity to help contractors leverage technology to address certain challenges they’re encountering daily on job sites. Although construction may have been slower than other industries to adopt advanced technology, perhaps due in part to the nature of the work, it’s hard to overlook the potential benefits, especially with more cost-effective options and technologies that are geared toward mitigating a contractor’s risks and job site hazards.

And, if technology can play a role in maintaining safer, more productive job sites, there’s a real business benefit. For example, the Travelers 2022 Injury Impact Report, which analyzed more than 1.5 million workers compensation claims over a five-year period, found that construction workers on average missed 98 work days after an injury, the most of any industry. Implementing technology aimed at helping workers avoid injury, such as sensors that can help address struck-by hazards, or AI that could help reduce repetitive motion exposures, could reduce the number of on-the-job injuries and help contractors keep projects moving according to schedule.

Q: What is the ROI for adopting safety tech?

A: I don’t believe it’s a one-size-fits-all scenario. Rather, it depends on a contractor’s business needs and the problem they’re trying to solve with technology. With so many options available, it’s important for contractors to start by doing their research, especially with newer innovations. This can include talking to other companies that have implemented these solutions and getting their unbiased feedback, and leaning on their insurance carrier, who may be able to provide insights on not only a technology’s benefits but also its potential risks. For instance, at Travelers, we investigate new technologies and evaluate the pros and cons of each so that we can better understand how they work on job sites and educate our customers about what we learned to help them make more informed decisions. This test-and-learn approach is something that contractors can do themselves. They can try out an innovation, evaluate its use on a jobsite, adjust the strategy as appropriate and, if they see a benefit, decide to invest in and adopt the technology.

Q: How does safety tech address construction's productivity gap?

A: Many of the technologies provide a wealth of data that can help contractors make jobsite improvements, which could be related to productivity, efficiency or safety. The key is that contractors are examining, evaluating and acting on the data they are getting. To help with this, contractors can collaborate with the team involved in managing the technology to develop and act on key performance indicators.

Another consideration is whether there’s a companywide commitment to the use of technology. Sometimes we see deployments that are unsuccessful because broad commitment isn’t there. When you’re integrating a new solution on a jobsite, you’re relying on those in the field to deploy it and manage its use. However, these new responsibilities are often in addition to their typical workload, so it’s important to consider how the early stages of introducing a new technology might affect productivity and to prepare accordingly. Establishing a feedback loop between field management and corporate leadership can help, as can communication with vendors, who may be able to provide varying degrees of support and assistance.