Construction workers working alongside robots may
seem far-fetched. However, investment in robotics and
automation in construction is expected to climb as high
as $166 million by 2023. While productivity improvements are one
part of this, the safety improvements are also a significant driver.
How integrated these tools become on construction sites remains
to be seen, but there are already examples that improve both safety
The annual cost of occupational injuries in Canada is more than $19
billion. Automation and robotics can impact safety through worker
augmentation. In fact, workers may soon be able to wear strength-
and ergonomic-enhancing equipment in addition to PPE. For example,
new exoskeleton technology from Ekso Bionics allows workers
to lift more weight while avoiding fatigue and injuries associated
with repetitive movements. This includes both a mounted arm for
lifting heavier tools and equipment, as well as a vest to assist with
chest height and overhead work.
“These exoskeletons are solving problems for injuries that people
are getting without doing anything wrong,” said Zach Haas of
Builtworlds One. “They’re doing their job right. The fact is it’s just really
tough work that takes a toll on the body.”
Sarcos Robotics recently formed the Exoskeleton Technical
Advisory Group (X-Tag), which includes representatives from companies
such as Caterpillar. The purpose of the group is to help identify
performance and safety requirements for this technology, while
further advancing its use in several industries.
ABI Research expects the global exoskeleton market to increase
from about 2,500 units in 2015 to close to 110,000 units by 2025.
Automated site scanning
Built Robotics is showing how automated heavy vehicles can make
construction sites safer. Using GPS and LIDAR technology, Built
Robotics has deployed autonomous vehicles for site excavation on
several small pilot projects. From a safety perspective, its built-in
sensors and collision avoidance systems can stop the vehicle any
time, and the concerns about fatigue or human error are eliminated.
Another tool in your toolbelt?
New automation technologies have already demonstrated their potential
to improve both productivity and safety in construction.
Hear what is going on by subscribing to CCA’s newsletter at
bit.ly/ccasubscribe, by following @ConstructionCAN on Twitter or
by looking up Canadian Construction Association on LinkedIn. DJVSTOCK / 123RF STOCK PHOTO
Moreover, should they continue to advance and commercialize further,
these technologies could soon become another tool in the construction
industry tool belt.
Automation and robotics bring
safety benefits to construction
CANADIAN CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION
BY KEN LANCASTLE, CANADIAN
thinkbigmagazine.ca | Quarter 3 2018 | Think BIG 37