At last, change comes to the sector, led by a surge in urban population and streamlined by technology.
We are entering a time of change in a sector that has been fairly stagnant over the past decades. Unlike other industries, there have not been the changes seen for example in manufacturing with the introduction of ‘lean’ processes.
Construction is set to escalate rapidly amid a surge in our world’s population in urban areas estimated at 200,000 people per day. This will require us to construct more housing and greater infrastructure for utilities, transportation and social recreation. Ageing infrastructure will require the construction industry to maintain this, upgrade and in some cases replace it. Projects and the way in which we work will have to take into account an increase in natural hazards such as severe weather events and flooding as well as pandemics. We will do all this with greater efficiency, leading to significant gains in safety and environmental management.
One of the biggest changes we will see in the industry is the increased use of technology. As use becomes more mainstream, prices come down and a younger workforce comes in, we will see projects using automated bulldozers working with drones and 3D scanners to clear ground. 3D printers will permit steel components to be produced with a 75% reduction in weight and 40% reduction in production materials required.
Building information modelling will be more widely utilised, allowing greater collaboration between all parties throughout the whole lifecycle of a building. It will allow for safer buildings to be built, maintained and demolished in a way that will satisfy all OSH professionals.
Tech leads the way
Research and development has been lacking in the construction sector in the past; understandably, it is hard to justify such cost in the project-driven world of construction, but as larger companies use and trial new technology such as virtual reality induction programmes, the more affordable and attainable it will become for others.
The construction industry has already started to implement artificial intelligence on sites with the use of smartphones and cameras to identify hazards such as workers without PPE and missing guardrails. These will not replace OSH professionals; they are reactive and not preventative, but they will aid OSH professionals in identifying trends and root causes.
Technology will also require the appointment of higher skilled workers who can create and manage the software and potential cyber security threats as our construction sites and buildings become connected to the Internet of Things.
This year, in the UK, will see the Building Regulations reform creating the Building Safety Regulator set up by the Health and Safety Executive. Initially the regulations will apply to multi-occupancy buildings of 18m or six storeys, whichever is reached first, but this will filter down and be introduced to other building types in the coming years. For those of us that are conversant with the duty holder regime of the CDM regulations, the new Building Regulations reform will be familiar. All stakeholders in the construction industry will be impacted: clients, designers, procurement and manufacturers of construction materials.
There is still a long way to go in regard to safety in the construction industry. We still have a four times higher rate of fatalities than other UK industries and there is still a lot of work to be done to focus on the health of the workforce; all too often we visit sites with no COSHH assessments or any understanding of hand-arm vibration for example. But if we as OSH professionals can work to educate the designers and eliminate these hazards during the design phase of a building, the impact would be great.
At ABBEY CCL we will continue to share best practice with all stakeholders including clients, construction industry bodies and government. Our aim is to continue to pass on information and educate those we work with in the advancements of technology and safety standards across the sector.
ABOUT ABBEY CCL
ABBEY is a multidisciplinary construction consultancy with UK-wide coverage. The team boast a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience, and pride themselves on excellent project delivery. abbeyccl.co.uk