Clayco Applies Academic Rigor, Technology to Construction Safety

By on May 10, 2019

This week (May 6-10) is Construction Safety Week, in support of the Construction Industry Safety Initiative (CISI). Clayco, which is signatory to the CISI effort, has applied its corporate tagline of “The Art and Science of Building” to collaborations and applications of new technology aimed at improving jobsite safety.

These have included:

  • Collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine on a  construction ergonomics study directed at best practices for reducing soft-tissue injuries.
  • Collaboration with Savannah School of Art and Design students on a group project aimed at developing concepts for next-generation hard hats.
  • Testing Ekso Bionics EksoZeroG robotic arms which allow workers on lifts to reduce the amount of energy exerted by the employee to keep tools such as pneumatic hammers above their heads.
  • Adapting next-generation gloves with touchscreen capabilities. The gloves include a high-degree of cut resistance with flexibility.

“One of our fundamental values within our safety group is continual improvements and figuring out ways to improve technology, processes, equipment, system,”  Todd Friis, vice president of risk management for Clayco said.

Clayco safety manager with Washington University medical researcher.

In the case of Washington University, Clayco, which has done a lot of work on both campuses, was contacted by the researchers. They had received a grant to study ergonomics on the construction site with a goal of reducing soft-tissue injuries (strains and sprains). Those injuries have shown to have a greater frequency than other severe injuries, which are frequently the focus of safety interventions.

The five-year study, funded by a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the CPWR Center Construction Research and Training was specifically aimed at behavior-based safety in the construction industry with the goal of reducing injuries nationwide. The grant required that the research be focused on ergonomics.

“(The researchers) spent considerable time in the field,” Friis said. As a result, the researchers were able to develop trust relationships with workers from Clayco and its subs. Friis said that Clayco’s safety culture helped the researchers in their gathering of data on soft-tissue injuries, which tend to slip under the radar in a suck-it-up, keep-the-EMR-low focused industry.

“We communicate from the very beginning that all injuries must be reported, no matter how minor. It’s part of our culture. Most people who work on a Clayco project know that.”

Ergonomics led Clayco deeper into seeing why the injuries were happening and helped to support updates to Clayco’s pre-task checklist procedure, materials handling policy, which requires such things as wheels to reduce lifting, and the requirement of a 50lbs carry limit. Ergonomic analysis is built into all areas from onboarding, to preconstruction, to training. Clayco also helps subs with ergonomic assessments.

Building a Better Hard Hat

Clayco has recognized that improvements in the construction industry often require taking ideas from other areas, including academia. Clayco had a relationship from previous project work  with Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). When it was suggested to Clayco CEO Bob Clark that Clayco work with students at the school to assess new hard hat designs on the market and prototype improvements, he green-lighted the project.

The Clayco SCAD design team was a combination of students from five different countries studying a variety of majors and minors. Within the team, the students’ major studies included design management, equestrian study, graphic design and industrial design.

Savannah School of Art and Design student hard hat prototypes

“The objective was to do prototypes in size and shape and texture, Friis said. We chose designs and told them what options we thought were best.” The prototypes incorporated such features as improved ventilation and incorporation of next-generation communication tools.  The students also interviewed people on a Clayco jobsite in Atlanta.

Incorporating New Technologies

EkzoZeroG robotic arm technology is currently being tested by Clayco’s Concrete Strategies subsidiary. “Robotics and all those things are changing all the time. We’re showing field crews how all the pieces would work,” Friis said.

Clayco is supplying cut-level three and four safety gloves with touch screen capability to its workers. “We require gloves. If they take them off (to use touch screens) they’re  less likely to put them back on. The new technology glove designs are stronger, more cut resistant and more pliable, allowing increased dexterity, Friss said.

Clayco is also utilizing artificial intelligence technology to flag safety violations in jobsite photos and BIM360 to provide log safety audits/checklists on a weekly basis, documenting safety behavior in the field and facilitating communication across the site among all subcontractor teams.

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