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Contractors have faced a lot of challenges during the past few years, but it is important to focus not only on which risks are at the forefront currently, but what will be prominent risks in the future. To understand the biggest risks facing contractors in 2022, Construction Executive has conducted an exclusive interview with Lisa Morgan, senior vice president, president construction, energy and marine, and Ken Wengert, vice president, risk control – construction, energy and marine at Travelers.

Construction Executive: With construction being such a complex industry, how can contractors determine what kind of technologies can best address the unique risks they face?
Lisa Morgan: While there’s great potential for technology to help contractors address many of the challenges they face, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially given the complex nature of construction. So, the first step for contractors when evaluating the technologies available today is to understand the risks they want to address. By identifying the business challenge, they can pinpoint the kind of technology that could be most helpful for them.

When evaluating technology options, it’s important for contractors to keep in mind that these innovations are designed to support—not replace—their existing safety program. It’s also critical to avoid underestimating the commitment of time and resources necessary to implement and manage some of these technologies.

Because adopting new technology is not a simple task, its important to navigate this process using a test-and-learn approach to innovation. Invest time and resources to thoughtfully evaluate and identify the solutions that best address different industry risks. Collect shared experiences and insights or test cases to help find the right solution for your unique needs. In addition to assessing third-party technologies, consider in-house solutions that can help to manage your total cost of risk.

CE: How can artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies be leveraged to support worker safety and wellness?
Ken Wengert: There are several ways that AI and other advanced technologies can support worker safety and wellness.

Ergonomics, for instance, play a significant role in the safety and well-being of construction workers, given the physical nature of the role. Contractors should consider AI-assisted ergonomic assessments that can be done quickly and conveniently. This technology assists ergonomists when analyzing video of a worker performing a task and helps them assess movements and postures that could result in soft-tissue injuries. Then, the ergonomists provide recommendations for workplace improvements that can help limit the risk of injuries and related costs. 

Another example is wearable devices, which have broad measuring and monitoring capabilities and can be incorporated to help identify at-risk behaviors, among other use cases. Proximity sensors can help mitigate risks related to workers who are near machinery, forklifts or heavy equipment. During the pandemic, proximity sensors and other "Internet of Things" devices were used to help workers maintain social distancing on jobsites. 

Telematics and onboard monitoring systems are widely used to help contractors improve the safety and operational efficiencies of fleets. And simulation training through augmented and virtual reality platforms can enable training, such as how to safely operate a crane, without putting workers in harm’s way. 

CEWhat about preparing for and preventing losses on jobsites?
KW: Technology certainly can come into play here as well. For example, construction management software can help contractors manage the total cost of risk by connecting key stakeholders on one platform for collaboration across locations and devices. Water protection technology can help mitigate water damage risks and reduce consumption by monitoring jobsites and identifying sources of leaks and waste. There’s also safety inspection software, which is designed to help customers inspect, manage and track workplace hazards before they lead to losses. Camera and video systems on jobsites can also help contractors monitor construction progress and detect potential issues with schedules, labor or materials that could lead to increased change orders or project delays.

Contractors might consider the ease of a phone app to to identify potential equipment-generated ground vibration risks, such as Travelers' ZoneCheck℠, which completes preconstruction project surveys in real time to help avoid costly vibration damage claims.

CEWhat role can technology play in controlling costs?
KW: I mentioned the construction management software already, which can assist in controlling costs by providing that real-time visibility into a project. There’s also helpful technology that can be used after there is a loss, such as predictive analytic models. One such model identifies injured employees who could be at risk of developing chronic pain, a leading cause of opioid dependency. Other examples include virtual tools to investigate and assess a claim remotely, when appropriate, or post-breach services that help customers isolate affected data, notify customers, retain necessary forensic experts and manage crisis communications.

CELooking ahead, what can we expect to see as new technologies continue to emerge?
LM: I think we’ll see continued interest and excitement around innovation in this industry. Any product that can help contractors improve safety and contain project costs has the potential to deliver great value for contractors.

And I anticipate that contractors who have already made investments in different technologies will look for other ways to use these solutions to address pain points they face, such as using wearables originally purchased to detect worker falls to also help identify areas where accidents may be more likely to occur.

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