Thursday, July 5, 2018

Construction Companies Seek AI Solutions for Safety

A Boston construction company is one of hundreds of companies
implementing artificial intelligence to monitor worker safety
and stop accidents before they happen.

Is artificial intelligence the next step for the construction industry? A Boston-based contractor says yes. Suffolk Construction is developing an algorithm that can identify construction site hazards- and intervene before injuries occur.

The AI project will analyze photos from job sites and match the images with accident records. The program will be able to tell project managers when too many safety violations have occurred so they can retrain workers on proper safety protocol. Eventually, the program will be able to "see" hazards and violations, and predict these risk before they happen.

In an industry where workers are killed on the job five times more often than others, artificial intelligence could be very beneficial to the health and safety of workers. Seasoned construction workers can be very educated on OSHA, but a computer detect the exact distance between a scaffold and a building, the exact weight load of a platform, and whether a machine was properly locked out or not. 

"It's about introducing a high level of predictability in an unpredictable environment," John Fish, CEO of Suffolk Construction said in a recent press release.

While Suffolk writes its own algorithms, it uses another company to help obtain the data to analyze. Smartvid.io has several clients which have helped to provide case studies that prove data analytics can reduce job site injuries- and improve productivity.

In one case study provided by Suffolk Construction, the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics helped their construction team provide better field documentation. Workers taking pictures of sites was time consuming and error prone; the AI analytics provided better documentation which helped their workers be more prepared for the worksite. This lead to a reduced time for field documentation and reduced the time workers spent on dangerous worksites.

The use of data analytics and artificial intelligence has been rare in construction - as opposed to similar labor industries such as healthcare and manufacturing. Part of this is because construction margins are slim, so conventional methods are still going strong.

"People know how to build the way they know how to build and it's hard to convince most of them to do things any other way," James Benham, CEO of the construction technology firm JBKnowledge, said in a recent press release.

Suffolk is not the only construction company looking into technological solutions. The McKinsey Report, a digest on construction and manufacturing trends, show an increased interest in bridging bytes with bolts. Indeed.com, a popular job board, showed a jump in construction jobs with an emphasis on a tech background.

In an increasingly tech-supported world, artificial intelligence can help construction workers save lives and save time. All efforts to improve worker safety should be considered- there's no margin for error when it comes to your life.

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