https://www.t-mobile.com/business/resources/articles/how-5g-improves-construction-safety

How 5G helps improve construction safety.

Despite many advancements, accidents remain a serious concern in the construction industry today. In the U.S. in 2019, there were 2.8 million non-fatal private construction site accidents1 and a 12-year high of 1,061 deaths.2

Overseeing worker protection is an ongoing priority for construction stakeholders. New solutions are emerging that have enormous potential to increase safety on construction job sites. Technologies such as mobile connectivity, Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics—as well as the applications and 5G networks that will make these technologies accessible—are contributing to this effort.

Construction workers can now use technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) on the job to assist them in performing a variety of functions to improve safety, efficiency, and productivity on site.

Construction site connectivity is growing simpler, and more robust.

The introduction of 5G is an exponential step forward beyond 4G, delivering the potential for much greater uplink and downlink bandwidth capacity and much lower latency. This means construction workers can now use technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) on the job to assist them in performing a variety of functions to improve safety, efficiency, and productivity on site. And with 5G, uploading and downloading large 3D models and 2D drawings in the field can now be done almost in real time. This has a huge impact on construction by allowing everyone working on project designs to access the latest changes as soon as they are made, enabling them to immediately identify a potential clash or mistake in the plans that could have catastrophic impacts. 

On the jobsite, 5G opens the door to numerous applications that can improve safety and efficiency. Here are just a few of the options that are becoming more prevalent on construction sites today.

  • Construction wearable technology

    • Wearable technology with digital sensors in hardhats, belts, boots, vests, and wrist bands have become enormously helpful in protecting workers from dangerous conditions. Connected to applications through 5G networks, wearable sensors can detect when a worker enters a restricted area with potentially dangerous conditions or machinery. Wearables can also trigger alarms, alerting jobsite managers or local emergency response agencies to problems and risks. For example, if a worker falls, a smart wearable could detect the mishap and alert others, and even an emergency medical technician (EMT), to help more quickly. Vests can also track employee movement using geospatial positioning, which is important to support social distancing in pandemic conditions.

    • Building on the safety wearables worn by firefighters and other first responders,2 new types of wearables with sensors can also convey the wearer’s blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood oxygen level, head orientation, and other health metrics to alert workers and managers of dangerous health conditions. Some of these technologies can also track environmental data such as air quality, noise, and jobsite temperature—alerting the worker to potentially harmful situations so they may act accordingly to protect themselves.

Companies can identify problems like incorrectly stacked pallets, fuel leaks, reactive chemicals stored too close to each other, or workers not using personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly―all posing safety risks.

  • Video analytics and artificial intelligence

    • The increased bandwidth from 5G makes it possible to use video surveillance systems with computer vision, a field of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows computers and systems to scan digital images and videos for specific information and take actions based on the findings.3

    • Construction companies can set up cameras around job sites or attach them to vehicles or other equipment. Using computer vision, an AI-based technology that allows computers to see and understand digital images such as photos and video, they can identify problems like incorrectly stacked pallets, fuel leaks, reactive chemicals stored too close to each other, or workers not using personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly―all posing safety risks. Computer vision, video, sensors, and microphones can also be used to automatically monitor posture, mood, emotions, productivity, and other worker behavior, further contributing to a healthy environment.

  • Drones and remote-control vehicles

    • Construction companies have begun to use aerial drones for jobsite monitoring, adding photos and videos from flyovers to building information modeling (BIM) and jobsite security systems to keep track of employees, track project progress, and uncover issues. Using hyperspectral sensors, 5G-enabled drones can also conduct site surveys and flag dangerous chemicals and hazards below ground.

    • Used to evaluate sites before construction even begins, drones can more quickly assess the relative safety of large areas (e.g., hazardous terrain, predators, trespassers) and reduce accidents caused by walking and operating heavy equipment in sites before the site is protected. Used during and after construction, drones can also conduct work-in-progress inspections, deter theft by alerting management to unauthorized people onsite, and measure equipment and supply stockpiles.

Operators in Germany working for another construction company are using 3D machine guidance to remotely manage excavator machines more than 5,000 miles away in South Korea.

Like several other technology solutions enabled by 5G services, drones also reduce the need for inspectors to regularly visit the jobsite, minimizing their exposure to danger and instituting regular―even around-the-clock―monitoring procedures.

Workers close to the site or even thousands of miles away can operate robots and autonomous vehicles. A contractor in China has deployed an unmanned fleet of road pavers and rollers that are remotely controlled and connected by a 5G network utilizing GPS positioning systems and other technologies for a major highway project connecting two provinces.4 Operators in Germany working for another construction company are using 3D machine guidance to remotely manage excavator machines more than 5,000 miles away in South Korea.5

In the U.S., a robotics company has created Spot, an agile, mobile robot that can explore and gather data in dangerous locations or conditions (e.g., a mine, underwater, places with toxic air) to remove human workers from these tasks.6 5G also enables remote site inspections using VR to accelerate building signoffs.

  • Safety compliance management software

    • High-speed wireless connectivity to smartphones and tablets provides access to compliance management software. Compliance management software helps identify hazardous conditions, monitor adherence to lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures to control hazards to personnel, and prescribe immediate corrective actions. These systems can work in conjunction with wearables, computer vision, drones, and other solutions to track site conditions as well as individual worker compliance with safety regulations.

5G’s ability to help prevent accidents, maximize worker safety, reduce losses, virtually manage machines, and monitor adherence to compliance mandates are among the most compelling benefits in this industry.

Safety, compliance, and business benefits of 5G in construction safety.

The emergence of 5G for construction promises to provide a long list of other benefits beyond safety and compliance as well. By optimizing the use of assets, people, and processes, developers, contractors, and construction firms can help reduce the number of accidents, minimize business interruption, trim energy costs, curtail losses, and demonstrate compliance to government and industry safety mandates. One study found that the annual cost of equipment theft alone on job sites in the U.S. averages $400 million.7

Insurance companies are also seeing the potential cost-saving value of 5G in construction. Many firms are now beginning to use data from wearables and other sensor technologies to accelerate underwriting based on the assessment of hazardous working conditions, using the information to predict or prevent accidents and to handle claims more accurately. For those construction companies focused on safety, this could lead to substantial cost savings.

With 5G, data and communication can be used in construction the same way it’s being used in other industries like banking, healthcare, and education, to enhance productivity and improve quality. But its ability to help prevent accidents, maximize worker safety, reduce losses, virtually manage machines, and monitor adherence to compliance mandates are among the most compelling benefits in this industry.

We built our 5G network to give you an advantage today and tomorrow.

With America’s largest and fastest 5G network, T-Mobile® for Business is here to help construction companies like yours unlock the possibilities of 5G now and prepare for emerging opportunities in the future.

We offer a collaborative approach, building customized solutions so your sites can get ahead of the 5G curve faster. Lean into 360° support from a team of experts dedicated to helping you enhance the customer experience and improve operational efficiency.

T-Mobile for Business has an ambitious vision for fueling innovation in construction. To continue exploring 5G-fueled transformations across the industry ecosystem, visit our 5G Construction industry webpage today.

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