Human Condition Institute

The Future of Construction Safety

View our infographicAt the Institute we are constantly investigating industries where we can develop innovative solutions that increase social responsibility, safety, promote streamlining, increased capacity, and efficiency.

Construction is an exceedingly viable candidate with a global growth rate of 70% by 2025*. With this growth comes a need to focus on job site safety, and efficiency across a variety of project types. As construction technologies have had to adapt to the increasingly complex building demands of architects and modern design, construction safety technology and job site information has lagged behind other industries. As one of the most dangerous occupations globally, this needs to be addressed swiftly.

Construction safety and health is about to see a transformative change over the next few years due to innovative solutions and applications in wearable technology. The technology has finally caught up so that it can provide the solutions our research has shown to be needed in the construction industry. Collecting data on workforce movements and behavior can allow us to identify safety and health related patterns and intervene. Our research has shown that bad work layout is often to blame for injuries or fatalities. We have to consider that workers want to be empowered and involved in hazard detection, control, feedback, and decision making.

In our labs we have been investigating and prototyping construction safety technology, wearables, smart clothing, and application of artificial intelligence and automation to construction projects that can lead to overall job safety, performance efficiencies, and cost savings.


  • OSHA Focus Four HazardsFour most common types of injury or death.
  • SafetyLocation and proximity awareness of workers, equipment and materials, smart clothing, aids first responders, and provides for insurance and OSHA compliance.
  • SecurityDifferent priority levels and zones (who is on vs. off site and exact location monitoring).
  • EfficiencyWorker accountability, time tracking, automated workstation check-ins, and aids in monitoring correct ratios of proposed workers on site.
  • AnalyticsActionable insights needed to deliver value and efficiencies.
OSHA's "Focus Four" Hazards

Our team started by looking to address the OSHA’s Focus Four Hazards: falls, struck, electrocution and caught-in or between. We used this as a basis for designing the next generation of construction safety clothing. We focused on two existing pieces of safety gear, a new smart hard hat and safety vest that can be incorporated into a modern job site.

The hard hat is an iconic symbol of the construction industry and has remained relatively unchanged for 65 years. We have worked to modernize the hard hat to meet the safety demands of today through an innovative use of low cost technologies.

With our design of a modern hard hat we aimed to integrate:

  • Worklight/safety beacon LED lid light
  • RFID/BLE node for Real Time Location System (RTLS) communication
  • Impact and motion sensors with reporting
  • QR code for automated computer vision recognition and secondary ID
  • Hybrid power source using solar, supercapacitors, and kinetic charging
  • Utilizes GPS/RTLS for monitoring the location of individuals indoors and out

With our design of a modern safety vest we aimed to develop a product that:

  • Protects a worker from falls through the use of an airbag system
  • Detects and transmit vitals to first responders
  • Tracks worker core temperatures to prevent injury caused by heat stroke
  • Records/monitors residual electrical voltage that would result from electric shock
  • Detects repetitive stress motions that could lead to injury
  • Utilizes GPS/RTLS for monitoring the location of individuals indoors and out

Smarter ApparelThese new safety tools are on the front line, capturing data for analysis of safety and efficiency insights. A construction worker goes through a variety of risky tasks each day and OSHA has classified these as the top causes of death or injury:

Top injuries:

  • Falls (from heights)
  • Struck
  • Scaffold collapse
  • Electric shock and arc flash/arc blast
  • Trench Collapse
  • Failure to use proper personal protective equipment
  • Repetitive motion injuries

We are aiming to reduce the amount of these accidents and injuries as well as facilitating the following areas through automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Automation can reduce human workload as well as identify, alert and predict events and scenarios. AI can determine when a weather pattern has shifted, alert the managers and halt the hoists if the winds speeds rise to an unsafe velocity. Security and first responders can be delivered a report on a worker or workers while in route to assess and prepare a plan of action. The impact of materials that arrive early or late can be predictively modeled and recommendations can be made, or work shifts changed automatically.

Benefits of a modern automated job site:

  • First Responder AlertingCrisis management and proximity awareness
  • Insurance & OSHACompliance reporting and liability identification
  • SecurityZone authorization monitoring
  • Labor MonitoringLocation / worker classification ratios and time card tracking
  • Material Tracking & Predictive Modeling
  • Government & Economic Incentive Program Compliance
  • Davis-Bacon Compliance and reporting

By providing more accurate and faster first responder awareness and access to real time information, injuries can be attended to sooner. Reducing time to aid is a major metric of the success in a life saving rescue. We designed each component to communicate when a worker may not be able to. Both the hard hat and vest have location tracking and beacons to provide continued safety in the event that a fall or other injury separates the hard hat from the worker. Even if separated from the worker the hard hat communicates the relative location of the event and as the vest would most likely still be attached to the worker for more precise location identification and vital monitoring.

The data collected will provide additional metrics that can be utilized to increase safety, security, and efficiency.

JSIC System Diagram

Our team felt that one of the most powerful tools to facilitate worker safety and job site efficiency is through enabling a Job Site Information Cloud (JSIC), an automated tool that can help the managers and engineers gain insights on safety, job progress, and efficiencies in real time as well as over a period of time to detect trends and make predictive analysis. This cloud model is illustrated above. A RTLS is the frontline data collection tool that can track various assets including workers, equipment, vehicles, hoists, materials, and visitors.

Figure & Ground Callouts
  1. Hoist UtilizationAre the hoists being used efficiently and how do you eliminate bottlenecks?
  2. Climate FactorsHow does weather affect worker movements? How does weather affect job site efficiency?
  3. Smart Protective GearHard hats and safety vest enabled with sensors and wireless communications.
  4. Worker LocationAre the workers on time and in the right zone?
  5. Predictive AlertingWill there be a future problem based on current worker and equipment movements?
  6. Safety AlertingIn the event of an emergency, did everyone get out of the building?

The Benefits of a Job Site Information Cloud (JSIC):

Labor Monitoring – By enabling a RTLS, you have real-time access to information about who came to work on your job site that day and, at any given time throughout the day, you can find out who’s still at work on your site. A JSIC dashboard gives you instant information about your labor and tells you if you have enough workers on the job to complete the day’s tasks and keep you on schedule for a timely completion.

Automated Daily Reporting – By retrieving data in real time it is possible to monitor and track workforce labor costs. At the end of the day, a JSIC produces daily reports both for internal and external review. Whether it’s a printed report or an Excel report, one shift or three shifts, detail or summary form, all you need to do is set alerts or generate the report.

Government and Economic Incentive Program Compliance – With a JSIC enabled a detailed knowledge of the workforce is readily available and provides data for workforce composition as well just a simple quantity and a list of names.  Use JSIC compliance reports to see the composition of your workforce broken down by zip code, gender, ethnicity, minority ownership, disadvantaged business enterprise designation and more.

Davis-Bacon Compliance – JSIC allows you to report, analyze and validate your claims with detailed tracking of your labor by job classification and rate.

Resource Scheduling – Enter a schedule for every sub-contractor and every job title within that subcontractor and get daily updates on the status of progress for that subcontractor. For example, tell the JSIC that you expect Sub 1 to provide 20 resources each day, six days per week for 10 weeks at eight hours each day. That’s a total of 9600 man-hours of labor. JSIC can then send you automated updates on the progress of labor hours consumed in real time on a daily basis—or more often if you need it. Break that information down further by job titles like apprentice and foreman and you will get even more detailed information including Davis-Bacon compliance reports.

Text Alerts – Once a resource is registered in a workforce monitor (meaning an individual is entered into the system and assigned an ID/tag), you can set up text alerts to one or many phones when the resources enters any of the JSIC monitored job sites. Know immediately if an unauthorized individual comes back on site, or if the job site is truly vacant.

Overtime, Change Orders and Job Closeout – RTLS never gets tired of monitoring labor and never complains about reporting on those hours. JSIC information is timely and accurate so you can make business decisions in real-time when they really matter. Reduce change orders that you can’t validate. Eliminate overtime request authorizations without back-up and corroboration of hours. When it comes time to reconcile accounts with the customer, JSIC there to provide information and prevent unsubstantiated delay claims.

Export Data – Export your data to Excel to easily manipulate it and feed it into other systems. There is an opportunity to market this data as well for research or analytics.

Real-Time Video Processing – Beyond identifying and categorizing objects of interest, video processing can augment the sensor information by learning over time the gestures/behaviors of these objects. These systems tied to an RTLS can:

  • Reduce waste by identifying efficient processes and monitor their usage
  • Identify fraud by tracking known inefficient behavior
  • Improve safety by sending real time alerts when a known emergency event is occurring

Virtual World Dashboard – Using construction plans, a 3D virtual world can be created from the existing Building Information Modeling (BIM) information and exported into a living model of the job site. This virtual world can be used as a project planning tool or as a real time dashboard by collecting RTLS data runtime and displaying avatars in a 3D setting. These dashboards can be displayed over the internet on mobile devices or on the web.

We are currently seeking industry partners to develop a pilot project that can lead to additional development and commercialisation.


*Oxford Construction 2025 Outlook

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