Public spaces such as schools and hospitals are witnessing a surge in construction projects all around the world hence the need for construction project safety and security protocols. With 6.7% of the national budget going to education, education construction is estimated to be worth billions in the year ahead. The health sector is not left out, and in the aftermath of the vicious pandemic, there has been an explosion of health facilities constructed across all regions. While this is great news for students and patients and other beneficiaries of these public buildings, in the short term it is nothing but headaches for facility managers overseeing these projects. They have to deal with a host of priorities: ensuring worker safety, making sure work progresses on schedule, and workers are trained, certified and qualified.
By their very nature construction sites are inherently complex environments, with an army of workers, heavy earth-moving equipment, and multiple activities occurring simultaneously. The success of job completion on schedule boils down to the consideration of how well the contractor or facility manager managing the building project can address the myriad challenges.
Below are five pertinent questions to ask the contractor before commencing a construction project, be it renovation, demolition, or construction from scratch.
Implementation of Technology On-site
The visibility, transparency and oversight required to manage complex projects is provided by technological advances. The Internet of Things (IOT), advanced cameras, drones, bots, are just some of the few which springs readily to mind. Other applications such as productivity software, scheduling solutions enable contractors to connect jobsites. The traditional perception of the construction industry seen as a tech laggard compared to other industries is fast eroding, and the best-in-class contractors and facility managers are leveraging these advanced technologies to provide extra value on-site.
IOT sensors and networks is increasingly employed to increase on-site safety and security, eliminate major risks, and increase operational efficiency so projects are completed on schedule. Another example is the Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, which creates digital models of buildings in three dimensions and helps architects, facility managers, and engineers design and engineer more accurate structures, all the while increasing project efficiency.
Keeping the Public Safe
It is important for the facility manager to know who is always on-site to ensure the safety and privacy of students, patients, building occupants, given the high level of security requirements in these times. The steps the contractor takes to be able to guarantee this safety must be asked. Regular worker training may be required to impress upon the necessity of maintaining building perimeters and boundaries.
There are now IOT-based wearable sensors which can be worn by tradesmen, construction workers, and others so the facility managers can see in real time, every class of worker by trade present (plumbers, carpenters, electrical, etc.,) and their locations as hey move through the site. When IOT is integrated, facility managers can monitor movement, and have peace of mind in sensitive environments. Places which are off limits to workers, such as student classrooms, or maternity wards can be secured with beacons which can communicate with wearable IOT devices so the manager can see and intercede immediately if and when a worker strays into these places of interest.
As construction projects flourish throughout the country, the paramount concern is on safety on-site. Compliance on, for example OSHA laws- means that contractors must comply with mandated training else face stiff fines. The facility manager would do well to ask the contractor how he complies with this mandated training, and whether there is a black mark on his records for non-compliance in the past. This information could be gotten from manual documentation from each worker, or through wearable carrying this certifiable information. The technologies described above could also prove useful in identifying a worker upon arrival at the site, to ascertain if he is supposed to be on site at that time and bears the necessary certification. Advanced cameras can be used to augment worker identification.
Ensuring Workers Safety
The facility manager must be sure of the contractor’s commitment to worker safety. Any occupied building, such as a school or a hospital needs not only to ensure the occupant safety but also the workers as well. The first document that proves this should be the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which should indicate the amount of worker safety training the contractor provides. OSHA certification is an added bonus. To ensure safe exit for workers in event of emergencies, the contractor must have evacuation drills conducted. IOT sensors automatically alert security personnel to falls, fire, etc in real-time in the event of any incident, enabling them to arrive at the scene faster and reduce or minimize the severity of injuries. The injured worker can also simply press a button to send instant notifications to supervisors about any incident, enabling him to be an active participant in the site safety culture.
IOT sensors are also used on equipment such as forklifts, which can communicate with the operator’s devices to help ensure that he in fact possesses the right credentials to use them.
The facility manager’s day is made when he gets official notification that a major renovation project is nearing completion. The faster the project is wrapped up, the sooner all workers can get back to their day-to-day work. The contractor, therefore, should be able to give him a realistic timeline for project completion and provide honest updates about any unforeseen delays which may occur.
Prompt project completion is another area where technology can help contractors to operate more productively to better meet deadlines. Putting sensors on equipment and tools has already been discussed, as that is an effective way to reduce time wasted in tracking them. Monitoring worker activities, equipment location, can enable the facility manager to see where aspects of the project is progressing slower than scheduled, delays caused by inaccessibility of materials or time wasted by tracking equipment is taken note of, and the necessary adjustments can be made. Data collection using advanced software also affords the contractor to better analyze past projects to get better insights towards faster resolution of future projects.
In conclusion, public construction projects such as schools and hospitals are almost always a boost to the morale and wellbeing of communities, yet they can be traumatic to facility managers who are asked with the responsibility of ensuring that day-to-day operations continue with no hitches. This can only be realistically achieved when the contractor is asked the right questions to keep projects in line with budgets and to get completed with time, as well as making the whole enterprise a safe haven for the public and workers alike.
Facility Management | By Olamide Ajayi