It may seem counterintuitive to want to see employees and contractors on a job site with their noses buried in a mobile device. What are they doing, anyway? Scrolling Instagram? Swiping right for their next date? It can't be safe, right?
...Or can it?
It turns out, that despite a possible reaction to the contrary, mobile technology can improve construction safety on the job site. And it’s a good thing, too, because it’s not like mobile use is going out of style. According to a 2018 Construction Technology Report by JB Knowledge, 92.8% use smartphones and 62.1% use tablets daily.
5 Benefits of a Mobile Construction Safety Program
1: Increases a sense of responsibility
Through the use of mobile technology every person who steps foot on the job site can feel a sense of ownership and empowerment for safety. Safety is no longer just the responsibility of the safety manager. Mobile technology provides instant access to accurate and up-to-date safety program information, accessible via a screen-tap or two. It creates a sense of accountability for the quality of the safety data. A safety program and inspections processes can likewise be decentralized and collaborated on by field personnel, third-party stakeholders and subcontractors.
2: Increases Efficiency & Productivity
With information at their fingertips, field personnel no longer need to waste time on value-less tasks, like making trips back and forth to the site office to get their safety plans, drawings, and forms. Plus, nobody has to drive back to the office to re-transcribe notes or assemble reports. When correctly set up, a mobile safety program provides safety checklists via mobile apps like Autodesk BIM 360 that make data collection fast and efficient. The time saved on value-less tasks can be applied to value-add activities like additional site safety inspections or more time working with your trades and subcontractors in the field.
3: Improves Office & Field Communication
When someone in the field notices a safety issue, they can report it immediately to the office to resolve immediately — making the information available to anyone else who might encounter the same or similar situation. There being little to no lag time between when an issue is identified and when it's reported helps with accuracy and improves response time.
4: Enables the Use of Leading Indicators
A well-designed mobile safety program enables field workers to document site conditions in real-time. This improves the quality and timeliness of data used for analytics allowing for the use of leading indicators of potential incidents, infractions, and near misses. Today, most companies rely on lagging indicators to track and understand their safety record. While it’s important to address issues when they occur, it’s even better to be able to prevent them from happening in the first place.
5: Enables Safety Meetings & Trainings in the Field
When you can carry all the data in your hand, it’s easy to schedule briefings and safety trainings in the field, where the context for the meeting is right in front of you — improving the quality of your trainings by conducting it in the environment or with the relevant equipment.
Planning for Mobile Technology On Site
People don’t naturally think of technology as introducing similar risk as a large piece of machinery, like a crane carrying a large piece of concrete does. But we all know with mobile technology comes distraction and just like any other tool or piece of equipment you introduce onto the project site, you need to ensure that there are guidelines in place for the safe operation and use of mobile technology.
In order to gain the benefits of a mobile safety program, it’s important to put formal mobile construction safety guidelines in place for construction sites. Here are a few tips:
Start with common sense: Don’t use a mobile device anywhere you wouldn’t unroll a tube of drawings
Plan paths of travel for mobile users, routing them away from areas with debris and heavy equipment use
Prohibit use of mobile equipment on ladders
Limit personal use of devices while on the clock
Provide backpacks, holsters, and other hands-free accessories for specific devices
Require full-stop position and, in elevated positions, 100% tie-in prior to unholstering mobile devices
Integrate mobile safety into your site orientation training
5 Step Approach to a Best-In-Class Mobile Safety Program
Get information to the Site – A great starting point is to get your team mobilized with access to all the latest safety-related information, in documentation form on their mobile devices for reference in the field or to potentially even mark-up.
Mobile Inspection Process – Leverage mobile to perform safety inspections. The emphasis here is that you can do the same things you have always done just in a more efficient manner.
Safety Meetings Out On-site – Find opportunities to leverage mobile in your site safety meetings. So your team can stay in the field or perform training in the context of what they’re learning about.
Data & Analytics – Once information is captured from the field, you want to enhance how you leverage data and analytics to surface insights and improve safety program performance.
Continuous Improvement – Ensure you have a culture of continuous improvement, so that the evolution of your safety program never ends.
What a Construction Safety Inspection Process Looks Like with Mobile Technology
Mobile technology simplifies nearly every aspect of safety inspections, from process workflow to consistent follow-up and non-conformance resolution. With mobile, the safety inspection process gains:
Access to more accurate, up-to-date information at the point of inspection
Easier capture of information, including photos for context
Digital checklists to record both conformance and non-conformance
Fewer communication delays for follow-up activities
Increased documentation of issues
Faster issue resolution
Greater access to updated safety information for field personnel
The Business Value of Mobile Safety
Besides the obvious benefits of greater safety and efficiency on the site, a mobile safety program provides significant business value. Two major areas where that value can be realized are in reporting and continuous improvement.
Because the data collected by a mobile safety program is higher in quality, more current, and greater in detail, it’s possible to leverage that data to gain business insights and identify both leading and lagging indicators. Some construction companies capture all that information to build a site safety dashboard that makes it easy to see key indicators at a glance, and drill down to view more detail.
2. Continuous Improvement
With so much data and analysis available, companies are empowered to create a system for continuous safety improvement. Lessons learned can be fed back to the field, while the field simultaneously feeds new information back to the trailer, all of which can be fed to corporate and incorporated into continuous improvement measures.