Construction firms proactively address worker safety with predictive analytics in their tool belt

May 1, 2023 | 6 minute read
Rick Bell
Senior Content Marketing Manager
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Construction workers understand that they need to have each other’s backs. They must always be conscious of their surroundings and actions, working together to prevent the distractions that could lead to an accident on the jobsite.

Construction Safety Week’s 2023 theme is “Strong Voices, Safe Choices,” which showcases the industry’s dedication to creating a culture and environment to keep their teams and jobsites safe. Workers and companies across the construction industry are asked to pledge their commitment to building a strong safety culture, and why it’s important that everyone is empowered to own and act on safety.

Suffolk is a nationally recognized, privately held real estate and construction enterprise that invests, innovates, and builds commercial projects across the country. As an industry leader that tirelessly seeks new and innovative ways to keep employees safe, Suffolk maintains a strong commitment to jobsite safety.

Each year, the company celebrates Construction Safety Week on its jobsites with lectures and safety stand downs, says Tim Stroud, Suffolk’s chief operating officer. Suffolk also has taken the national Construction Safety Week pledge and it ranks No. 5 on the large companies pledge leaderboard, demonstrating their influential leadership position in promoting jobsite safety in the industry.

Safety innovations through AI on jobsites

Boston-based Suffolk also constantly seeks the latest safety innovations and technologies to keep its workers safe.

“We incorporate a predictive solution to help us manage safety risks on project sites,” Stroud says. “We had partnered with Newmetrix, formerly known as and recently purchased by Oracle to develop this solution—it leverages data pulled from Suffolk project sites and complex algorithms to give a risk rating to jobsites that indicates how likely an incident is to occur based on certain conditions that have been observed to correlate with incidents in the past.”

The tool can predict incidents similar to the way weather reports forecast dangerous weather conditions before storms impact communities. When the risks of safety incidents are heightened, project teams can take the necessary steps to alleviate the risk and potentially save injuries and lives.

“Suffolk invests heavily in safety from both the process and technology standpoint,” says Josh Kanner, Senior Director of Product and Strategy-Construction Intelligence Cloud, Oracle Construction and Engineering, and former CEO of Newmetrix. “There’s unfortunately still a lot of people dying and being injured in the construction industry. Safety Week is a great opportunity to highlight how important the topic of safety continues to be.”

Newmetrix applies its construction safety technology across multiple segments.

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Commercial construction, heavy and civil construction, energy and utilities, and oil and gas, and manufacturing all benefit from the Newmetrix technology.

Suffolk remains a close partner with Kanner and his Oracle team, and the Newmetrix solution continues to add value on their project sites, Stroud says.

“Suffolk utilizes Newmetrix on our jobsites to collect visual and structured data on workers, PPE, tools, site equipment and schedule activities, and in turn analyze this data and correlate against possible risk factors,” Stroud adds. “Newmetrix’s AI, Vinnie, can also detect 100 various safety risks from construction images

With predictive analytics such as Newmetrix, Suffolk can identify situations that have higher risks of a safety incident occurring. For example, Stoud says predictive AI can recognize a “perfect storm” situation on a jobsite where there is less manpower, poor weather conditions and an upcoming long weekend, which together could create conditions that are ripe for a safety incident.

“The algorithm can flag these conditions, allowing the project team to act accordingly and mitigate the risk,” Stroud says.

At the end of the day, a perfect safety record should be every contractor’s goal, and this culture comes from the top. As Suffolk chairman and CEO John Fish often says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Proactive approaches to jobsite safety

For Suffolk, safety is a relentless pursuit of perfection and new advances in predictive analytics like Newmetrix is helping companies stop being reactive and start acting more proactively. By employing innovative solutions and measuring everything they do, Suffolk can better track safety results and progress.

“Safety and operational excellence are Suffolk’s highest business priorities for this fiscal year, and this commitment is reflected in everything we do,” Stroud says.

Addressing mental health issues as part of Safety Week

This year, Suffolk is hosting a Mental Health Fireside Chat featuring a panel of mental health experts covering subjects including substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts in the construction industry.

AI webcast
"Using analytics & AI to reduce risk: Contractor's perspective"

Suffolk also will host several webinars to educate its employees about its mental health resources, build new skills to notice and respond to mental health issues, and learn strategies to navigate day-to-day stress.

While no industry is immune to stress and mental health issues, the construction industry is particularly susceptible, says Dana Piscopo, director of sales operations for the Americas who also leads the Oracle Alliance for Recovery. As part of OAR, she also holds weekly mental health wellbeing workshops under the banner Reclaim Your Moxie.

“The biggest thing right now with the construction industry is suicide prevention, because four times the amount of people that die in the construction industry die from suicide,” Piscopo says. “While there's roughly 1,000 fatal accidents a year, there's over 4,000 construction workers who take their lives and die by suicide. So, it's a huge safety and wellbeing factor these days on the jobsite.”

Building trust with workers to address mental health

There are multiple factors contributing to mental health issues, she says. Construction is a very demanding, physical job, she says. There are factors that put them at risk of financial instability, especially workers who experience winter layoffs. Some employees injured on the jobsite may become addicted to opioids that have been prescribed to them.

“When you have a worker who comes onto the jobsite and is distracted by divorce or financial worries, suffers from depression or alcohol use or another substance use that they may have, that may cause distractions on the worksite,” Piscopo says. “And that can cause safety issues.”

Similarly, a recent study of more than 14,000 employees and business leaders across 17 countries found that people are struggling to make decisions in their personal and professional lives at a time when they are being forced to make more decisions than ever before.

According to The Decision Dilemma, a study conducted by Oracle and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, New York Times bestselling author, 80 percent of people polled say the number of decisions they make every day has increased 10 times over the last three years.

Piscopo is part of a research project with the Construction Industry Institute to address mental health issues. The outcome of the project is to create a guidebook for construction industry safety and HR managers better communicate with someone during a mental health challenge.

“We want to build the trust of the people on jobsites to let them know that their job is not on the chopping block if they come to us with a mental health issue,” she says. “We want them to talk to somebody. Whether that’s calling 988 or reaching out to your safety professional, it's so hard to take that step. It’s highly uncomfortable to reach out when you’re struggling. And it doesn't have to be in person. It can be a text, a call, it can be anything to get somebody's attention to get yourself some help.”

The Oracle Smart Construction Platform combines our industry-trusted applications with a common data environment and an ecosystem of partners to help owners and delivery teams work together and continuously improve performance. The platform connects teams and data, synchronizes work, and empowers individuals to make informed, proactive decisions. Power performance with proven Oracle Construction and Engineering solutions for scheduling, portfolio management, construction project management, project controls, construction payment management, and more.

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Rick Bell

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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