The construction industry has some catching up to do

‘The pandemic has brought the lexicon of safety and risk professionals into the everyday environment of millions of people’ says Darragh Geoghegan, CEO with Engage-EHS.

21st November, 2020
The construction industry has some catching up to do

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

Darragh Geoghegan, CEO with Engage-EHS

What are your day to day responsibilities?

I’m CEO but I also have the responsibility to head up the sales function, so a typical day to day would be working with the senior management team on strategy and direction for the business, helping oversee any major projects and working with the sales team on market strategy and execution.

What is your professional background?

I studied as a Mechanical Engineer and started out my work life as a Production Engineer in a cryogenic plant. I retrained and focused in on construction in the mid stages of the Celtic Tiger, setting up a small construction firm doing renovations and one off housing projects. In 2008 along with my co-founders we set up Engage-EHS (then called Effective Software) to change how people engage with and manage safety in the workplace.

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

I think any global event of this magnitude will create an impact that will last for a long time to come. Certainly for the generations of people in the working world affected as they have been, those scars won’t disappear too quickly.

The pandemic has brought the lexicon of safety and risk professionals into the everyday environment of millions of people. People now talk about risk assessment and risk mitigation and understand the principles pretty well. PPE is now common. These things will impact how people engage with and think about safety & health.

On one hand I think it has shown that when faced with risk and when that risk is shared, generally, compliance with new or increased control measures has been high, people will do what they need to do for the common good. In some industries where perhaps the culture or behaviour would have typically been more lax towards compliance, you may see a shift to the realisation of the benefits that come from the right behaviours.

But the counter impact may also be that we see a lot of push back after such a long period of “putting up with all this safety stuff”.

I think that we have seen such a high level of support and compliance around required controls when it is understood that it is for the greater good and may give some learnings to the safety industry about how to communicate and how to drive real behavioural change.

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

Being honest, I think the construction industry has some catching up to do with other high-risk industries when we think about technology adoption for safety management. BIM, design and project management are well addressed from a technology standpoint but safety tech is lagging.

I think in the next 5 years you will see a few things. Firstly companies will need to have a deliberate digitisation plan and look to start thinking about strategic technology partners, embrace cloud technology so they can build a “best in class” set of technology tools to optimise their business. You will see the majority (I would say currently the minority) having an integrated technology platform covering all key areas of their safety management system. This should cover the engagement of workforce, comprehensive data tracking and analytics.

Beyond that when we look at some other industries we can look to the Internet of Things and connected sensors to see the impact that is having in manufacturing and aviation in driving the next level of safety management. From vibration and wear sensors to flag issues before failure in machinery to location-based notifications, reminders or point of task micro-training, smart technology can look to help construction companies get the leading data in real time and intervene with the right action or information to eliminate risk before harm or lost time is realised.

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

I think from a construction point of view, I’m probably not qualified to give a detailed answer on this but from a wider perspective on technology and safety tech, I think companies will need to be very deliberate in their hiring and upskilling programs to look at individuals with good technology awareness at all levels of their business. The right technology partner will ensure that there is not a steep learning curve, but as technology becomes more part of the everyday activities on site, companies will need a wider and deeper skillset to future proof their business and stay competitive.

Darragh will be speaking at the 2020 Virtual CIF Health & Safety Summit on Thursday 26th of November.

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