IT project aims to reduce construction accidents

2 November 2012

A software company is working with Willmott Dixon and Birmingham School of the Built Environment to create an online health and safety management system that   would introduce new IT-enabled systems to reduce accidents.

The project team says the system would go beyond legal compliance issues, helping contractors find new, safer ways of working, for instance by using smartphones to access permits at the point of use and interactive tablets to engage site staff.   

The start of the six-month development project coincides with the latest annual statistics from the HSE, which show an increase in RIDDOR accidents in 2011/12 – there were 5,391 compared to 4,813 in 2010/11.

There were also 49 deaths in the industry, compared to 50 in 2010/11. But the number of non-fatal major injuries in construction dropped slightly, at 2,230 compared to 2,307.

Software company Handsam has been awarded a small EU grant to adapt a safety management system already used by 1,000 schools and colleges for the needs of the construction industry.

The EU’s Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network funds projects that take solutions from one industry and applies them in another, and also have a social purpose – in this case reducing accidents.

Willmott Dixon will provide access to two demonstration projects, to help the team link the software to contractors’ site and safety practices.

Handsam’s managing director Simon Lowe said that the tool would allow contractors to manage H&S information, with an ability to create reports across a number of sites or activities that would lead to greater visibility of accident risks.

Other benefits would include e-training and linkage to the smartphones everyone carries rather than bespoke PDAs.

“If you’re on the far side of a large site and suddenly you realise you need a hot works permit, it might take half and hour to trudge to the site office and back. Or it could be instantaneously downloaded on your smartphone,” said Lowe.

Lowe added that the software would be able to link with other construction management software in a BIM data-sharing environment, provided that other software vendors agreed. 

Professor David Boyd of Birmingham School of the Built Environment, said: “This is an opportunity to devise a system with the way people work, not how the system wants them to work. It’s not just about legal compliance, it’s about interactive engagement with the system.”

He also predicted that IT “gaming” technology could transform health and safety engagement in the future.


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