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IOSH study: Apps can ensure safer buildings

Digital apps can help construction project designers create safer buildings by improving their knowledge of hazards during the design phase.

That’s according to new research funded by IOSH and conducted by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University.

It found that the use of a multimedia digital tool can help to educate designers on typical design-related hazards and assist them in designing safety into construction projects more effectively. 

The study asserts that many professional design institutions have been gradually withdrawing the requirement for architects and civil engineers to spend prolonged periods of time on construction sites.

In turn, this has meant many designers do not have the construction knowledge needed to understand how their designs could impact occupational safety and health and often results in contractors taking on the responsibility for building designs.

However, the IOSH research shows up to half of construction accidents in the UK have a connection to the design of the building, highlighting the importance of improving designers’ knowledge of hazards and designing safety into developments from the outset of projects.

Professor Billy Hare, Deputy Director of the BEAM Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “A key factor for this research was the visual nature of the digital tool’s content, which seemed to work best with new graduates.

“But its real potential lies in being able to capture tacit knowledge from more experienced designers for the next generation to counter the age-old problem of organisational memory loss and prevent the same old mistakes that cause accidents and ill health from being repeated.

“We are now looking for partners to develop the prototype digital tool for full-scale industry use.”

As part of the study, a sample of 40 (20 novices and 20 experienced) designers from two typical industry groups of architects and civil engineers were recruited.

The designers were randomly assigned to multimedia user (experimental) and non-user (control) groups, who were permitted to use the internet for help. Participants were asked to review a set of computer-aided design (CAD) drawings in these sessions, identify hazards and make decisions about designing for OSH.

The experiment tested the multimedia digital tool against general internet searches and examined the designers’ ability to foresee OSH hazards in designs by measuring both the quantity of specific hazards identified and the quality of design outcomes.

Using the tool, the designers identified hazards a total of 599 times, with architects identifying over three times the number of hazards as those not using the tool. For civil engineers the figure was five times as large.

In both cases the scope of hazards identified was double that of the group not using the multimedia tool, suggesting it was an effective way of improving designers’ knowledge of hazards. This knowledge could help to create safer buildings by factoring a greater number of hazards into the planning and design of construction sites.

Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said: “Everyone would agree that it’s always best to prevent an accident from taking place in the first place, rather than reduce the injury.

“In today’s age of technology, being able to utilise digital training resources to help designers do just that is great. Such tools can make a real difference in upskilling professionals, irrespective of their level of experience. Architects and civil engineers can identify hazards and come up with better controls when developing and reviewing designs. Ultimately, this will reduce injuries and save lives.

“I hope that this research and the findings are welcomed by the design community in particular, including establishments with an educational or training interest, so that the learnings can contribute to improved industry practice.”

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

GUEST BLOG: The future builders will be programmers

As software continues to pave the way to more advanced and complex buildings, the question arises over the shift in skills our future builders will need. Potentially, we will require builders with more technological skills than practical skills, especially as artificial intelligence continues to develop enough to be able to take over basic labour tasks. In this article, building design software experts Oasys explores the matter further… 

Worrying about technology and jobs 

It’s a common concern, that one day all our jobs will be done quicker and cheaper by machines. Technology will not steal our jobs, but just replace us as we shift roles. But how will this impact the construction industry? 

It’s important to understand the numbers behind predictions like this. Boston Consulting Group has said that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by smart software or robots. This includes a range of professions, from factory workers to doctors, and even journalists. However, a study carried out by Oxford University has said that 35% of existing jobs in Britain are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

Whether or not we will see a reduction in physical workers is yet to be seen. However, this can be challenged if we start preparing early and encourage current and future workers to adapt to the changes. This could include advancing their own skillset with a focus on how they can do their job better with the use of technology.

Less replacing, more changing 

Of course, even if the workforce is replaced with mechanical workers, someone will need to manage this technology. It’s also left unmentioned that workers will need to use technology, and that leads us to the decision that in the construction industry, builders of the future will become programmers. Over the years, we have seen constant changes in the way we work, and the construction sector has been very accepting to new and innovative methods to make jobs easier. From hammers to nail guns, shovels to diggers — and now practical labour to programming.

This won’t be a quick change. Programming is a topic that schools around the UK should be looking to implement into their curriculums as a core subject to keep up with the demand of jobs and to keep up with the constant changes in technology. If we’re teaching young people old ways, they will be useless when it comes to doing the work and there might not even be jobs available that match their skillsets. With the constant growth in technology surrounding construction, young people need to be prepared with the skills and this shouldn’t be up for debate. Like the studies discussed earlier, more jobs are at risk of being lost due to smart software and robots. Workers need to be as good as the technology.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a common technology used in the industry that is hugely beneficial. This technology allows the appropriate people to access all of the information about a project in one place. It can look at key stages of a project across the lifecycle of a job and provide the information that is needed. This can save both time and money for any construction company and allows builders to have a clear oversight. BIM can help illustrate the entire building, from starting processes to its demolition, and can even show how materials can be reused. 

As with any industry, the trick is to stay ahead of the game and learn these new techniques required of technology in order to adapt. 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33327659

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/19/robot-based-economy-san-francisco

Technology ‘crucial’ in the battle for greater service sector productivity

Technology is a ‘crucial’ factor towards greater productivity and employee satisfaction, helping the services sector run more effectively as a result.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by Kronos, Empowering the Employee: How Technology Will Play its Part in Creating a More Efficient Workforce in the Services Sector, which outlines the challenges currently being faced by the FM sector, such as Brexit, the skills shortage and underperformance, with the direct result creating squeezed profits and an air of uncertainty for providers.

The report addresses these issues and suggests the service providers should embrace technology and help stimulate working practices and operations.

However, it claims that the services sector has yet to understand the full potential of technology advancements, such as robotics and workforce management tools.

“The services industry is up against it when it comes to delivering in the face of current market pressures,” commented Gavin England, EMEA industry marketing manager Kronos.

 “Skills shortages mean that businesses are struggling to efficiently move goods and fulfil orders, and the potential impact of Brexit means that there needs to be a major focus on improving operational efficiencies and streamlining core processes, while keeping staff morale high.

“The pressure to increase bottom-line profitability in the face of such challenges is very real, and one of the most effective ways that this can be done is by empowering managers and employees to do their jobs more effectively with the resources they currently have.”

FM must digitalise to increase productivity, says JLL…

A recent report from the professional services and investment management company, JLL predicts that companies will continue to implement and embrace a digital facilities management approach; with new technologies changing how businesses handle workforce and facility operations becoming more available.

As workplaces progress to deliver additional flexibility, the ‘Reinventing Facilities Management for the Digital World report warns the FM sector must become a ‘digital business’ to meet rising expectations and demands – focusing on employees as ‘end-users of space’ and distributing an experience that is consistent to increase productivity and attract and retain the best talent.
To find out more and access the full report, click here