Key Takeaways
  • Studies have shown that emerging technologies have the potential to improve construction worker safety.

  • Although extensive research is available on wearable sensing devices (WSDs) such as proximity sensing devices, some are hesitant to integrate WSDs into construction operations.

  • This study investigates the impact of WSDs as a control measure by showing how WSD features could have prevented fatalities using archival data. The study also investigates the perception of top management toward the use of WSDs.

  • The information provided in this article should inform organizations of the potential WSDs have in construction applications and provide manufacturers with information that could enhance the development of future WSDs.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2020), the construction industry witnessed a period of steady reduction in the number of fatalities and overall incident rate between 1973 and 2010. This reduction was primarily achieved through the introduction of new safety regulations, optimizing safety processes using lagging indicators (Marks, Teizer & Hinze, 2014), and introducing other effective safety practices (Hallowell & Gambatese, 2009). However, recent statistics indicate that the reduction in the number of fatalities has at best flattened over the past several years (CPWR, 2018). Increased construction complexity, escalating job pressure and the aging construction population are plausible antecedents for the observed stagnation. Moreover, Esmaeili and Hallowell (2012) posit that a primary reason for the observed deceleration is the lack of infusion of new safety innovation into construction operations. A study conducted by McGraw Hill Construction (2013) indicated that 43% of contractors do not intend to introduce a new safety innovation (technology or practice).

Given that the industry has reached saturation with respect to traditional incident prevention strategies, researchers have suggested that reducing the number of fatalities in construction will require an increased application of emerging safety technologies across a project's life cycle (Hollnagel, 2014). Studies have shown that technologies such as building information modeling (Zhang, Sulankivi, Kiviniemi, et al., 2015) drones (Şerban, Rus, Vele, et al., 2016), wearable sensing devices (WSDs; Awolusi, Marks & Hallowell, 2018; Cavuoto & Megahed, 2018), virtual reality (Gheisari & Esmaeili, 2019) and exoskeletons (Cho, Kim, Ma, et al., 2018) have the potential to improve construction worker safety.

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