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Planning for the Worst: How Scheduling Tech Can Mitigate Project Safety Risks

By Nitin Bhandari, Contributor

Safety has always been a top priority in the construction industry. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 1,000 construction professionals died while working on the job site in 2022 – more than any other industry sector. In fact, construction’s fatality rate was third highest among any job, behind forestry and transportation. These alarming statistics have forced construction professionals to identify and implement new tools and practices to mitigate on-site risk to their workers, which includes modernizing the way they plan and schedule projects.

Current Obstacles Impacting Worker Safety

There’s no shortage of variables that threaten a project’s successful and timely completion. Construction firms today face a range of challenges including labor shortages, supply chain delays, rising material costs, and inclement weather conditions, all of which hinder contractors’ ability to maintain efficiency and ultimately drive profitability. However, many of these challenges also impact the safety of their workers, both directly and indirectly, which is arguably the most important part of a job.

1. Staffing shortages spread resources too thin

As more of the construction workforce continues to reach retirement age and leave their positions, the skilled labor industry is struggling to keep up. These staffing concerns have resulted in overworked construction teams that are often spread too thin. Because of this, it is more important than ever for construction companies to plan their efforts strategically and allocate available manpower in a way that allows them to optimize their efforts while ensuring the safety of their workers. This includes preparing for unexpected events and the need for additional work; contractor teams must be prepared to tackle these incidents without putting the safety of their teams at risk.

2. Inclement weather threatens job site safety

Inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, sleet, frigid and exceedingly high temperatures, high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other hazardous conditions are significant obstacles for construction teams. In addition to creating an unsafe environment for workers and creating disruptions in the project momentum, these events impact visibility on job sites and create barriers to the production of quality work, delaying processes until further notice.

3. Supply chain delays and rising material costs increase pressure

Inclement weather is also closely tied to supply chain delays and fluctuating cost of materials, which can change depending on the market. According to Gordian’s most recent Quarterly Construction Cost Insights Report for Q4 2023, weather conditions have recently had a “significant impact” on construction scheduling efforts, citing one example as “droughts along major river shipping corridors causing delivery delays and a resulting increase in prices.”[1] The resulting delays can have a detrimental impact on project safety, as these situations can place increased pressure on budgets and the inability to hire additional manpower, causing workers to overextend themselves to work additional hours and in smaller teams to tackle portions of the project they are sometimes not adequately trained to do.

Although all of these elements are out of their hands, construction firms are on the hook to manage these challenges in a way that maintains the planned schedule while also promoting the safety of their workers. If not, they risk dangerous incidents as well as severe reputational damage that may limit their ability to win additional projects in the future.

How Modern Scheduling Tools Increase Construction Worker Safety

The strategic implementation of new digital construction technology can help mitigate safety risks, along with other challenges that create complexity for laborers and management teams alike. These new solutions will be an integral element to optimizing construction planning and ensuring continued safety.  With benefits including real-time visibility, course correction, a single source of truth, and better, more intuitive dashboards with a wide array of features, construction teams will have the resources necessary to prioritize worker safety without compromising efficiency or profitability.

Modern, well-developed project schedules aren’t just a timeline of tasks; they are also being used as a dynamic tool for managing safety risks on job sites. Preparing comprehensive plans makes it easy for teams to create, analyze, and update schedules to reflect changes in plans while also calling out important safety guidelines. When properly optimized with new ConTech solutions, a project schedule can serve as a powerful tool to identify hazards and reduce safety risks on construction sites.

Allowing contractors to tag and identify safety concerns and high-hazard activities within the schedule provides for more thorough planning and greater visibility. For example, a modern scheduling tool can boost visibility into complex projects and provide teams with an endless amount of data that can be used throughout the job to assist in the efforts of scheduling for construction safety. This also allows for stronger collaboration with other departments, including health and safety managers, so they can collaborate to determine the adequate amounts of support, staffing, and preparation for certain parts of the job.

By strategically planning, sequencing tasks, and allocating resources, construction teams can harness the power of project scheduling to reduce the many safety risks associated with construction projects. Prioritizing safety not only protects lives but also contributes to organizations’ overall success and reputation.

Nitin Bhandari is the CEO and Co-Founder, Planera (planera.io).

[1] https://www.gordian.com/resources/q4-2023-construction-cost-insights-report/

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