Just a few short months ago, in May, two construction workers were killed due to unsafe working conditions at a site in Navi Mumbai, a suburb of sorts to the Sai Mannat business hub in India.

While the deaths should have prompted outrage and collective demand for improving safety conditions, that’s just not the way things work in India. Reporting for NDTV, Sonal Matharu and Sreenivasan Jain shared the following:

We filmed inside the Sai Mannat site using a hidden camera – as well as a regular camera from the outside – to find workers suspended several stories above ground without safety nets or belts. We could see open wires, posing the risk of electrocution.

A metallic plank, the same one which caused the fatal accident in May, could be seen sliding down the building, tilted, with three workers on it without helmets.These findings shed light on the darker side of India’s $140 billion construction industry, where a pervasive lack of safety, as well as lack of government oversight places millions of workers at grave risk.

The Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, which governs safety at worskites, sets out nearly 200 rules, including asking employers to ensure that workers are supplied with helmets, boots, harnesses and other safety equipment. Risky open spaces are meant to be covered, with netting, for instance. Exposed wiring in wet areas is another no-no under the law.

If you have ever witnessed the construction of larger projects in India, then you probably already know just how deplorable safety conditions are, compared to what we enjoy in the US. I personally have seen pictures of job sites for Fortune 50 companies building large commercial office buildings with workers scampering across bamboo “scaffolding” barefoot, with no personal protective equipment whatsoever.

So yeah, those toolbox talks take time, and wearing fall protection and PPE does slow you down. But those tactics may also save your life so you can still get home to see your family tonight.

Submitted for your approval, below is a video that is part of an entire series of videos on YouTube depicting a guy working on excavating a tunnel all by himself, using primitive tools.

On the one hand, the idea that someone is constructing a massive tunnel by themselves, using hand tools, working shirtless and barefoot is certainly intriguing.

On the other hand, not only is this completely unsafe and goes against well established standards of practice, but if I understand some of the comments, he is not performing this work at his own property. If true, it is highly illegal, and it exposes the actual property owner to significant liability!

Perhaps there are other hobbies one might want to consider…

Timothy Schenck, writing for Engineering News Record, discusses the elaborate solution that was implemented during the Empire State Building’s retrofit in order to protect pedestrians:

When engineers made plans to reinforce and upgrade the carrying capacity of the Empire State Building’s mast and tower by adding 39 tons of steel, they had to find a way to protect pedestrians from falling rivets, tools and materials. Roofing the observatory and building bridges over the sidewalks 1,250 ft below were lousy options. The top of the iconic New York City building has an open-air observatory at the 86th floor and premium viewing spaces at the 102nd and 103rd levels. Annually, these spaces host about 4.3 million visitors and generate about $85 million in revenue. Soaring above the busy streets, a 200-ft-tall steel broadcast tower bristles with antennas that generate about $20 million more. Together, the observatory, mast and tower are the crowning jewel of the 86-year-old icon, which is owned by the Empire State Realty Trust Inc.

The search for an alternative to scaffolding dates to February 2014, when the ESRT’s building engineer, engineer-of-record Thornton Tomasetti, site safety engineer Plan B Engineering and contractor Skanska USA Building Inc. began to consult with New York City Dept. of Buildings officials to devise a plan that would not only protect the public and workers but also allow for the strengthening of the mast and tower without having to resort to sidewalk bridges.

They came up with a design for a sheltering “cocoon,” which sits on a 560-sq-ft aluminum elevated work platform, or “dance floor.” The platform is braced from below by steel brackets through the conical ice shield, which is there to shatter ice falling from the tower.

It just goes to show that proactive safety and risk management practices don’t have to be boring, and in fact, there is a lot of room for innovation in those areas.

When I was working with the facilities management staff at San Diego’s iconic Air & Space Museum on the path to LEED Certification under the Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance program, I got a chance to see a really cool tool that could on its own improve safety statistics for construction workers. Especially for the DIY-ers and volunteers of the world that like working with their hands — and keeping those hands intact!

The product is called SawStop and has been patented for some time. The way the device works is relatively easy to explain, but complicated in its design and execution. A portable table saw used for cutting wood, the SawStop table saw implements a unique blade assembly that can detect the presence of human (or other) flesh, triggering a chain reaction that stops the blade from spinning and then drops the blade assembly down into the saw’s housing — all of this happens in less than a second.

Great product idea, right? That’s what a competing manufacturer thought. Construction Junkie has more on the aftermath following Bosch’s infringement on SawStop’s intellectual property:

In January of 2017, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of SawStop and effectively halted Bosch from “importing, selling, marketing, advertising, distributing (except for exportation), and soliciting United States agents or distributors for imported table saws,” according to a press release from SawStop.

SawStop’s President, Dr. Stephen Glass applauded the decision, saying “When Bosch chose to introduce the Reaxx saw in disregard of our patents, they left us with no alternative but to take action in court. We have defended our innovation, our hard work, and our investments in developing SawStop technology, and we are pleased that the ITC ordered the exclusion of products that use our patented inventions without a license and confirmed the strength of those patents. We are grateful for the U.S. patent system for encouraging and protecting innovations and we look forward to continuing to supply the market with safer saws.”

Bosch reportedly plans to appeal the ruling.

Since today is Friday, here’s a video demonstrating the brilliance of the SawStop product.

Safety First! That’s been the culture in construction for most of my life, but as we all know, safety was not always the highest priority in decades past for our industry.

Back in the 70s, when OSHA, various trade associations, and — perhaps most importantly — the insurance carriers began cracking down on lax safety practices in construction, the pushback was epic. With already razor-thin profit margins, the additional direct and indirect costs of improving safety was a real threat to the businesses behind our built environment.

But people got over it, and now safety is taken seriously — well, at least a lot more seriously than it was a century ago.

Fast forward to present day and we can see that not only are our workplaces safer, but there is also a financial benefit to keeping workers safe. OHS Online reports the following:

Associated Builders and Contractors has released its 2017 Safety Performance Report, which reports that users of its Safety Training Evaluation Process, by using proactive safety practices, reduce recordable incidents by up to 87 percent — making the best-performing companies 770 percent safer than the industry average.

“ABC’s third annual report on the use of leading indicators, such as substance abuse programs and new hire safety orientations, confirms that high-performing ABC members have safer construction job sites,” said ABC President and CEO Michael Bellaman. “This is one of the few studies of commercial and industrial construction firms doing real work on real projects, and it shows that implementing best practices can produce world-class construction safety programs.”

Less job site accidents and injuries = more profit. It is that simple.

You can download a PDF version of the report for free at ABC’s website.

All this week I’ve been observing destructive testing at a high rise. At a building across the street, workers are taking down scaffolding from a 20+ story condo project after repairs were made to the building’s exterior.

More than a few times over the past several days my colleagues and I have observed workers not tied off to proper fall protection performing extreme acrobatic feats while carrying fairly large and unwieldy sections of scaffolding using both hands.

Watching these hard working folks putting their life on the line with every step has been eye-opening  and terrifying, while at the same time providing me a real sense of gratitude that my job isn’t nearly as risky.

And then I saw this: 

(Via Construction Junkie)

Fortunately, nobody was injured in this wild adventure. During construction of a facility, the concrete crew lost control of a gas-powered concrete polisher, and neighbors looking on captured the fairly dangerous but equally hilarious scene on video.

Normally, the polisher’s handlebars are held by a worker who sort of floats the spinning polisher at the bottom of the machine over the freshly-poured surface of the concrete to create a smooth texture. In this case, the polishing disc is stationary, but the rest of the machine is spinning around. Sort of like the tail wagging the dog.

It is more difficult to describe the action than just show it. Without further ado, I present the adventure of the rogue concrete polisher:

(Via BoingBoing)

Back in June of 2015, a relatively unknown company by the name of Daqri introduced an augmented reality-enabled hard hat that they dubbed the Smart Helmet.

While there clearly is not yet massive adoption among the trades for a more than $1,000 hard hat, that doesn’t mean Daqri has ceased innovation. In fact, as Construction Junkie reports, the company unveiled its next wearable device purpose-built for the architecture, engineering and construction industry: Smart Glasses. (Not to be confused with Google Glass, of course…)

Here is a video showcasing Daqri’s products at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show:

And here is a case study produced by Autodesk and Mortensen showcasing the Smart Helmet:

Learn more about the entire product line at Daqri’s website.

The upside to using modern electronic/smart door security systems in hotels across the globe is that it is really easy to check guests in and out, replace lost keys, and prevent former guests from reusing their key to gain unauthorized access.

The downside is that the smarter these security systems become, the more susceptible they become to hacking. (more…)

Finally, after 6-1/2 years, the utility at fault for the horrific San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed 8 people, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged 108 homes in total, will finally face some consequences related to criminal charges filed against the utility.

This evolving saga has been covered multiple times over the years by AECforensics.com. Here is a quick timeline of what has happened to date: (more…)