Growing appetite for AI in construction industry

‘Everyone has become more conscious and curious about health hazards due to the Covid-19’ says Leanne McLoughlin, Health and Safety Operations Manager for BAM Contractors Ireland

26th October, 2021
Growing appetite for AI in construction industry

What's your name and what position do you hold?

My name is Leanne McLoughlin, and I am the Health and Safety Operations Manager for BAM Contractors Ireland.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

•To ensure our occupational health and safety management system adheres to the latest legislation, codes of practice and ISO 45001 requirements. I also work closely with the operational teams to ensure it is practical and is implemented fully across the business.

•I mentor our site based HSE (Health & Safety and Environmental) Advisors, provide support to the pre-construction team when tendering work. I provide support to and coach the Project Management teams on risk identification and management.

•I am involved in incident investigation. I analyse and collate data, prepare performance reports, and develop strategies for senior management.

•But, by far the most important part of my role is building relationships and supporting our people, our supply chain and our clients and promoting proactive safety through planning and risk management.

What is your professional background?

I have worked as a health and safety professional for the last 20 years and have gained experience both here and in the UK market. Through the years I have had the opportunity to work with both public and private sector clients on infrastructure, education, residential and commercial projects.

In a previous role with Laing O’Rourke Group, I developed specific experience in Lifting Operations, Transport, Manufacturing, Precast and safety in design. I also completed management and leadership programmes which has helped me to work more effectively and build rapport with people at all levels.

Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on occupational safety and health and, if so, how?

Yes, I do. I think everyone has become more conscious and curious about health hazards due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In construction people are more conscious around hygiene and hand washing has increased before eating and when finishing work. I have experienced more conversations about silica dust, wood dust, noise, and hand arm vibration in the last few months with people now wanting to understand the impacts these may have on their own health.

There are also more workers removing their dirty or contaminated clothing at the end of the working day and bagging it up to take it home as opposed to wearing it home.

In addition, the lockdowns triggered an opportunity for people to stop and reflect on their own life and many used the time to kickstart a renewed focus on their own health and wellbeing.

It is great to see a lot more dialogue in the construction industry on these topics and tools beings discussed on how to maintain positive mental health such as the five ways to wellbeing. The Lighthouse Charity is doing excellent work to raise awareness and providing support to construction workers.

How do you see tech innovation transforming this industry? What do you think will be the major breakthroughs over the next 5–10 years?

Covid has shown that when challenged we are able to accelerate the speed and scale of digital solutions through technological innovations.

I believe with the growing shortage of skilled labour across the industry we are going to see a shift to the manufacture of building project components offsite. If we want to match the momentum of the output in the manufacturing plant out on site, we will need tech innovation to unlock productivity, overcome safety hazards and build with a better level of certainty.

This will require the use of technology such as BIM which will allow the construction process to be simulated and practiced for it to become more predictable. This simulation will allow for better planning of work and with the application of the hierarchy of controls, this will improve health and safety risk management.

What will be the leading trends in safety and health in construction industry in coming years and how will businesses need to adapt?

We are seeing a greater appetite for modular / off site construction emerging. This method of construction allows for most of the work to be carried out offsite using specialist equipment in a quality-controlled, ergonomically setup factory environment. Elements are then delivered to site reducing the time spent on site and accelerating the overall construction process. This changes the risk profile of sites and places more emphasis on some key activities such as design, logistics, lifting operations and temporary works.

In my opinions now is the time for businesses to prepare for this shift. Investment may be needed in:

•Logistics - ensuring the elements arrive in the correct order and on time to enable the build to proceed as per the plan is crucial. In my experience working on offsite construction projects several incidents occurred due to a delivery coming in the wrong order or the project deviating away from the agreed install sequence. There have been several technological advances allowing for tracking and tracing of products via GPS and logistic platforms which support the calling off and monitoring of deliveries.

•Lifting Operations – Having enough personnel in key roles such as Crane Operators, Crane supervisor and Slinger Signallers and Appointed Persons for Lifting is vital to ensuring lifting is carried out safely. There may also be a need for investment in Lifting Equipment suitable for the task as with modular and off-site construction the loads being lifted tend to be more complex.

•Temporary works is also a key element with personnel required to have a better appreciation of temporary works design, inspection, propping and loadings requirement etc.

Finally, investment is needed in technology. There is a growing appetite for AI (Artificial Intelligence) in our industry so now is certainly the time to invest.

Leanne McLoughlin is speaking at the 2021 CIF Health & Safety Summit on Friday, Oct 29th. For full details and for bookings visit www.cifsafety.ie

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