February 22, 2024 9 min read

AI For Construction: Transforming Safety & Efficiency




SafetyVector EHS Management

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to shape the future of the construction industry. This technology’s applications are far-reaching and helps AEC firms improve the productivity, efficiency, and safety of their workforce. In this blog, we’ll dive into the many ways to use AI for construction and why AI isn’t just a passing fad, but a critical component of ongoing business success.

AI for Construction: What is it?

For many of us, we are just scratching the surface of using AI. Popular AI tools—like ChatGPT—have dominated the conversation, but only give us a glimpse at AI capabilities.

Artificial Intelligence refers to machines and software that can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. For instance, writing, decision-making, speech, translation, and more.

You might be wondering how AI plays a part in the construction industry. It’s hard to picture how things like ChatGPT can help you with more than just writing emails (and wordy ones, at that). But the truth is, there are numerous other types of artificial intelligence that can be used in construction.

AI Tools for Construction

There are several different types of AI that are emerging in the space that can help construction firms improve worker safety, compliance, and productivity. This includes:

  1. Machine Learning: Where computers help solve problems by ‘discovering their own algorithms’ without needing to be explicitly told what to do by any human-developed algorithms. They can then, essentially, learn on their own and continue to get “smarter.”
  2. Deep Learning: A type of machine learning where computers handle, process, and learn from complex and large datasets.
  3. Natural Language Processing: This gives computers the ability to support and manipulate speech.
  4. Generative AI: These models learn patterns and structure of their input. It can then generate new data with similar characteristics when asked to generate text, images, etc. ChatGPT is a great example of a type of generative AI.

How to Use AI For Construction Tasks

There are numerous ways that you can start using AI to assist your employees in day-to-day tasks. Everything from designs to inspections, estimations, and safety audits can be enhanced with the power and speed of AI.

Improving Sustainability With AI

One great use-case for AI in construction is to improve sustainability. AI makes it much easier and faster to analyze energy consumption and emissions data to find areas for improvement.

AI for Construction Estimating

Numerous AI-driven estimating tools are now available for construction firms. AI can easily review data from a variety of sources, including project plans, historical invoices and bids, current market trends, and more to put together accurate cost estimates.

Further, AI can also provide recommendations for how to reduce costs and spend your budget more efficiently!

AI for Quality Assurance

Machine learning technology can help you improve the quality of building designs. AI can help with creating the designs themselves or by auditing the designs for quality. They do this by helping to quickly find mistakes or details that are missing. This can dramatically speed up the review process and catch mistakes that might otherwise be missed early on.

AI for Construction Inspections

Efficient incident reporting on construction sites is crucial for prompt hazard response and resolution. Timely reporting minimizes the risk of accidents, fosters a safety-centric culture, and contributes to overall project productivity by ensuring swift corrective actions. Internet of Things (IoT) technology paired with cameras and sensors installed on site can help you monitor your construction site in real time. This can then help you log incidents faster and mitigate risk.

Further, AI can assist with providing corrective actions and recommending online courses in case of a “standard” workplace incident and injury; however, employees must also tailor corrective action specifics to their organization.

AI for Construction Project Management

Project managers in the construction industry play a vital role in keeping projects on schedule and on budget. But projects are becoming larger and more complicated—AI is quickly becoming an essential tool to help with project management. Here’s how:

  • Identify and even predict where a project might fall out of scope (delays and costs)
  • Suggest solutions to get a project back on budget and on schedule
  • Help project managers set more realistic timelines in the first place, using historic data and project plans as reference

AI for Construction Safety

Employees are killed on the job five times more often in construction compared to other industries. Most of these deaths come from OSHA’s “Fatal Four” — falls, electrocutions, caught-in/between, and struck by incidents. But technology driven by AI is now creating ways to analyze job sites, identify safety hazards, and even rate the site’s safety. This type of technology can bring a higher level of awareness onto a job site and allow site safety managers to correct safety issues before someone gets hurt.

How Does AI Make Construction Sites Safer?

AI’s ability to rapidly process and analyze large data sets is transforming workplace safety and making significant strides in several key areas.

1. Centralized Compliance Management:

The power of AI to streamline compliance management transforms a traditionally fragmented and cumbersome process into a seamless, integrated system. This not only simplifies the tracking and adherence to regulatory requirements but also ensures that companies can swiftly adapt to changes in safety standards. For instance, AI systems can automatically update compliance checklists and protocols in real-time as new regulations come into effect, significantly reducing the administrative burden on safety supervisors.

2. Data-Driven Contractor Selection

Hiring the right selection of contractors is critical to maintaining high safety standards on any project. AI allows organizations to make informed decisions by analyzing the safety records and compliance histories of potential contractors more efficiently. This application of AI means that companies can assess and rank contractors not just on cost or availability but on a data-driven safety performance basis, ensuring that safety standards are upheld across the supply chain.

3. Enhanced Reporting and Risk Management:

AI tools provide in-depth insights into contractor risk, safety performance, and compliance. This capability allows for the early identification of potential safety risks, enabling organizations to address them before they escalate into accidents or violations. An AI-driven system might, for example, flag a pattern of minor safety incidents among a subset of contractors, prompting a targeted safety audit or additional training interventions.

4. Targeted Workforce Training

By identifying the specific training needs of the workforce, AI optimizes safety education programs, ensuring they are both relevant and efficient. This tailored approach improves safety outcomes by addressing specific knowledge gaps or skill deficiencies and eliminating unnecessary training, saving time and resources. For example, AI-driven training platforms can analyze job roles, previous training records, and performance metrics to create personalized training plans for each employee.

Having outlined the pivotal role of AI in transforming safety management practices, the next logical step is to consider how organizations can effectively implement AI within their workplace safety protocols.

How can AI Improve Workplace Safety?

Talk of AI is everywhere. But what does AI mean when it comes to managing your safety data and the safety of your workforce? Watch the webinar.

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Best Practices for Implementing AI

Implementing AI into workplace safety strategies requires careful planning. It’s important to develop comprehensive guidelines that outline how AI will be used within your safety programs.

“It’s important to select AI tools that align with your organization’s specific needs and goals in safety and compliance management.”

— Dan Davidson

Sr. Product Manager, Vector EHS

Integrating AI into safety strategies is a nuanced process that demands strategic planning:

  • Establish Clear AI Policies: Formulating comprehensive AI guidelines ensures that AI integration is aligned with safety goals, addressing ethical considerations, data privacy, and security.
  • Choose the Right Tools: The selection of AI tools should be based on a thorough understanding of the organization’s unique safety challenges and goals, ensuring that the chosen solutions fit the purpose.
  • Train Your Team: Equipping staff with the knowledge to use AI tools effectively is crucial. This includes understanding the capabilities, limitations, and the proper interpretation of AI-generated data and recommendations.
  • Monitor and Evaluate: Ongoing assessment of AI’s impact on safety processes is essential. This involves regular reviews of AI performance, user feedback, and the adjustment of strategies based on emerging safety needs.

The journey towards integrating AI is not just about adopting new technologies but transforming our approach to safety management altogether. For safety professionals and operations managers ready to take this step, the question is not if AI can elevate safety but how you can leverage AI to its fullest potential to achieve a safer, more efficient workplace.

Top Risks of Using AI for Construction Tasks

AI helps us be faster, better, and smarter. It might sound too good to be true. But the truth is, there are still some risks of using AI. Understanding these potential problems, however, can help you use AI safely.

The top risks are:

  • Data privacy and protection. Where is your data saved? Who has access to it? Given the uncertainty here, be mindful of sharing sensitive information on AI platforms.
  • Intellectual property. This is a risk in two different ways. The first is that AI tools are being trained using other people’s data and work, often without permission. Many call this out as intellectual property theft. The second risk here is that it’s still unclear who owns the content created by generative AI software. Is it you? The platform? The individuals whose work trained the AI?
  • Accuracy. This is sometimes the biggest risk of AI. The truth is, AI tools can “hallucinate,” which is where they make up information and genuinely believe it to be true. It’s important for a human being to still fact-check AI and not just assume that you’ve been given true or accurate information.
  • Bias. Unfortunately, because AI is trained on all the data out there, it can pick up biases and beliefs that can be damaging. For example, there have been numerous instances where AI tools have shown gender, race, and age biases.

These risks have influenced perceptions of AI. In fact, Pew Research found that nearly a third of U.S. workers actually believe AI will hurt the workforce more than help. But being aware of these risks and using it as a tool rather than a substitute for a human doing the work are ways to catch these issues and mitigate their impacts.

Ready to Take Your Construction Team to the Next Level?

AI’s potential to improve workplace safety is vast. By embracing AI, safety professionals and operations managers can enhance safety outcomes and drive greater organizational efficiency and effectiveness. As we navigate the complexities of modern workplaces, integrating AI into safety practices represents a crucial step forward in our collective efforts to protect workers and maintain high standards of operational excellence.

Pair the power of AI with improved safety tools and construction training to transform workplace safety in construction. Request a demo today to discover how Vector Solutions can streamline your compliance management, provide in-depth risk management insights, and tailor workforce training to meet your needs.

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