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Why the Future of Safety Apparel Is Smart

Hard hats, vests, gloves — these are just a few of the essential items contractors wear at the construction jobsite every day in order to improve safety. But what’s coming next?

The latest trend gaining momentum in the protective workwear market is wearable technology. There has been an increase in the adoption rate of the wearable technology in the construction industry, but why?

Tied to IoT

Wearable technology is a subset of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is used to collect data and provide information. A wearable user interface provides vital information through electronics that are designed to be worn. It is estimated that the global protective workwear market will grow at a rate of 4.98 percent from 2017 to 2021.

One of the major drivers for the protective workwear market is a robust growth in the construction industry. Construction sites can be dangerous: According to OSHA, 21 percent of workplace fatalities take place in the construction field.

As construction companies access the internet from mobile devices on their jobsites, person protective protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, vests, and gloves are now “smart.”

Smart PPE — or wearables — take the connected jobsite to the next level; the connected workforce. By collecting data, safety personnel can react more quickly to safety incidents and investigate them more thoroughly.

Wearables passively collect, store, transmit, and/or receive information about worker location, biometric signs, nearby hazards, and other jobsite data, all of which can be vital to ensuring safety.

According to an August 2018 report published by independent research and consulting firm Verdantix, 88 percent of respondents indicated technology is “either essential or valuable for the success of [environmental health and safety] management.”

Spreading the word

The success of any wearables or PPE programs depends on the mindset of the managers, workers, and subcontractors who use them. CONEXPO-CON/AGG, North America’s largest construction trade show, will feature 150 education sessions, several of which will focus on worker and jobsite safety. The show  also hosts 2,800 exhibitors and wearables for the industry will be featured at several booths. The show takes place March 10-14 in Las Vegas.

When adopting new safety technologies, listen to the objections and concerns of your workers, and educate them on how the data is used.

Safety is important on the individual level, and for the project and job site as a whole. As you explore these different areas and examine how these products are evolving in these industries, keep in mind both of those things need to happen to advance overall safety goals.

Also, initiatives that require less change for workers will be more successful, so technologies embedded in something they are already used to wearing will have greater success than creating a new wearable device.

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