How technology helps reduce risks in construction

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“Technology can enhance your risk management efforts, but you need to understand the overall investment and have the skills needed within your organization to leverage it,” says Lawrence Barone of Sentry Insurance. (Source: Bannafarsai_Stock/Shutterstock.com)

Construction projects are becoming more complex, and the time windows for their completion are becoming ever shorter. In addition to these challenges, supply chain issues and labor shortages are increasing potential risks for construction companies, insurance industry sources told PropertyCasualty360.com.

“Each of these factors can increase business expenses and insurance rates, underscoring why it’s more important than ever for contractors to manage their risks, reduce incidents and remain safety conscious,” said Michael Teng, associate vice president of regional products, pricing and insurance for Sentry Insurance. “Technology has the potential to help contractors improve safety — but only if used effectively and leads to better loss outcomes over time.”

Of course, COVID also played a role in further exacerbating current construction challenges, reports Randy Dombrowski, security services manager at Sentry Insurance.

“Some smaller subcontractors have not been able to endure COVID disruptions and labor shortages in recent years,” Dombrowski tells PropertyCasualty360.com. “Prime contractors will face additional pressures as they either take on more project responsibility or develop relationships with new subcontractors, which comes with its own risks.”

Regarding supply chain challenges, Mark Nowakowski, Associate Vice President, Head of Risk Control, e.g The Travelers Indemnity Co. says software solutions are available to manage submissions and all project documentation.

For example, with Procore software, “builders can get really good insight into what’s coming to a project, what they currently have, delivery schedules and delays,” he adds.

According to Nowakowski, getting materials to a job site is just as important as protecting the assets a construction company already has on site.

“We love it when our contractors manage what they have through theft prevention on the project. It’s one thing not to have it on the spot, but it’s another to have it and then have it stolen on the spot.”

Motion sensors and lighting can play a major role in this. In addition, some systems have cameras that allow site managers to see what is happening on a site.

“Safety inspection software is also a growing technology that we’re seeing customers use to ensure people in the field are working as safely as possible,” says Nowakowski.

These digital tools include wearable devices and ergonomic AI technology that assesses a workplace and makes recommendations for improvements that can reduce the risk of injury and the costs associated with it, Nowakowski explains.

Lawrence Barone, senior safety services consultant at Sentry Insurance, cited sensor devices that monitor oxygen levels and hazardous atmospheres as an example of wearable technologies being used on projects.

“On construction sites, an employee should be in a confined space to watch out for workers, but the sensors can add an extra layer of safety by sending out alerts,” adds Barone.

According to Al Paniagua, Senior Safety Services Consultant at Sentry Insurance, BIM (Building Information Modeling) systems also help contractors identify and reduce potential project risks by replicating the environment in a digital realm.

“Building information modeling helps contractors encounter potential hazards virtually before they actually encounter them,” says Paniagua. “When you can visualize property or worker risks up front, you can incorporate the right controls to work more safely throughout the design, planning and construction process.”

Barone explains that security technology is like any other investment and requires additional expense to maintain it and train employees to use it.

“Technology can enhance your risk management efforts, but you need to understand the overall investment and have the skills needed within your organization to leverage it properly,” he tells PropertyCasualty360.com. “If you’re able to make the long-term investment and keep your team trained, technology can help make work easier, safer, and more effective. But you need to understand the human elements that go into using technology effectively.”

Similar to BIM, some companies are using immersive reality to get a better assessment of a project’s risks through 3D and 4D models, according to Barone.

However, Dombrowski cautions that technology alone cannot improve workplace safety, but it is a powerful tool that can complement workplace safety efforts.

“Each construction company has its own unique risk profile – and therefore different technology requirements,” he says. “The one constant on all job sites should be building and maintaining a unified safety culture.”

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