Using Technology to Reduce EMR and Increase Safety
Year in and year out, no matter how many changes we see within the construction industry, safety remains a top concern. On-the-job accidents and injuries add up to billions in lost dollars, and they are certainly devastating to workers as well. As a result, every contractor pays close attention to their Experience Modification Rate, or EMR. This number not only affects your workers comp premium cost, it can affect your ability to bid on and win new projects.
Perhaps you’ve never seriously considered that second point. But look at it from the other side – who wants to hire a construction company known to be accident prone? The risks of productivity loss and related expense extend to clients. And if you’re having to pay more for workers comp insurance, you’ll have to boost your bid to cover that, making you less competitive.
On the positive side, however, a low EMR – proof of your great safety record – can make you a more preferable bidder. If you’re a sub-contractor, you show know that a growing number of general contractors are asking about EMR rates before choosing their subs.
Keep in mind that once your EMR goes up, you are stuck with that higher figure for three years. And you don’t have to suffer a catastrophic event to see your rate increase. The formula developed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) penalizes companies that have multiple “lesser” accidents as well.
Tap into Technology
Technology innovations have had a dramatic impact on construction equipment and operations. But technology tools can also help contractors improve jobsite safety and refine data collection to support better safety-related planning and risk management.
With pressure to stay on schedule and in-budget (or even to complete jobs early), it can be tempting to cut corners when it comes to safety. Many contractors now experience a chronic worker shortage, and with fewer crew members available to get things done, there is greater risk of fatigue, a key contributor to accidents. Workers may even be asked to handle tasks for which they are poorly trained, another invitation to accidents.
Contractors who have adopted tech-based solutions say there’s an unexpected but very welcome side-benefit – improved job satisfaction that helps retain valuable workers.
So what could new technology do for you?
- Mobile apps allow real-time data visibility and communication with workers onsite. Some are designed specifically to augment safety, with heat index reminders, daily tips, etc.
- Geofencing can notify you when people as well as machines enter an unauthorized area. You may think of this primarily as a theft-prevention tool, but it can also help keep workers aware from dangerous areas for which they are not properly equipped.
- Future-forward technology includes robotic exoskeletons – suits that incorporate metal components which imitate the body’s bones and joints. Wearing an exosuit enables a worker to lift and carry far greater weight without risking the kind of musculoskeletal injuries that commonly occur when crew members over-extend themselves.
- Grade control is one of the most valuable newer tech tools now found in many dozers, graders, excavators and similar machines. The technology enables operators to accurately follow their work plan without requiring workers on the ground to monitor work, move stakes or strings, or perform other tasks that would otherwise put them in close proximity to working equipment.
- Jobsite sensors can detect everything to noxious fumes to dangerously high temperatures, helping keep workers safe from invisible health threats. The sensors can also record this data, helping safety managers pinpoint problematic areas within a jobsite and take appropriate action.
- An increasing number of construction companies are now using drones. These popular tech tools save personnel time by performing fly-over inspections, checking job progress and detecting anything that might pose a hazard. But they can further increase safety by replacing humans to monitor dangerous areas. Drones can be used on demand, but many contractors are programming set flight paths that enable the drone to perform consistent daily, weekly or monthly site inspections.
- And, heaven forbid, if you do experience a serious incident technology can instantly alert everyone that there is an emergency, getting people safely away from danger and allowing you to accurately confirm headcount. Some tools can link supervisors to personal health and/or contact information if a worker is unconscious.
Not every tech tool that comes along makes sense for every application. But by choosing the right technology for your firm and types of projects, you can recoup your investment in increased jobsite safety as well as reduce EMR.