Logo preload
close Logo

How digital inspection data builds better construction safety programs

December 1, 2021

Better safety programs through digital inspection data

The recent release of the widely-circulated annual SmartMarket Report Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2021 from the Dodge Construction Network, in partnership with CPWR and Newmetrix, re-confirms one of their long-standing findings: contractors consistently report that safety programs have a wide range of positive impacts on their business as a whole.

Reported by 78% of contractors, the top benefit emerging from safety programs is the ability to negotiate better insurance terms, followed by an improvement in their company’s standing in the industry at 73%. Two-thirds said they are better able to bring in new work due to their safety programs, and 61% experienced improved worker retention because of them.

One finding that sticks out, however, is that these benefits are far more widely experienced by large companies. Small- and medium-sized companies that don’t have the same resources to invest in safety programs are failing to capitalize on the advantages they bring and are subject to falling even further behind their larger competitors.

In this post, we’ll go to the heart of the Dodge report and look at how digitizing the collection of reliable digital inspection data allows a contractor, big or small, to build a better safety program and enjoy these same benefits, while still positioning themselves as competitive.

When action becomes data

On the ground and in the field, no matter how routine their tasks, almost every construction worker is generating a rich and constant stream of accurate and reliable safety-related data.

Your team’s daily tasks, such as inspections or meetings, provide valuable information for safety programs, aiding hazard prevention and cost reduction. For example, toolbox talks may sometimes seem unnecessary or burdensome. But when you keep consistent track of the recurring topics and the attendance record of your toolbox talks, and then correlate these with inspection, hazard and incident reports, it helps you identify where the gaps are in your team’s knowledge and informs training decisions. In this case, giving a toolbox talk generates data you can learn from to address the root cause of the issue at hand.

Everyday actions in construction hold valuable information, waiting to be unearthed. However, companies using traditional data collection methods may find leveraging this data challenging.

Worker collecting digital inspection data using a tablet

‍The problem with paper 

Tools like pens, paper, paper maps, or even spreadsheets, are not designed to efficiently collect inspection and safety data. Prone to loss, input errors and inconsistencies, a paper-based system will always leave a safety program with knowledge gaps.

Benefits of digital data collection

Digitizing data collection offers immediate advantages over paper and spreadsheets. It enables incorporation of various media formats like video and audio. Additionally, digital data won’t get stranded in filing cabinets or on desktops. It provides a common, connected, and always-current source of information.

In inspections, digitization’s greatest strength lies in enabling construction companies to collect and analyze data in innovative ways. “It’s the difference between seeing grains of sand and seeing the beach,” says Jake Freivald, a vice president at Fulcrum. “Instead of one report at a time, you’re getting the overall impact.” Digital inspections immediately expand visibility into safety patterns, providing actionable insights to continuously enhance safety culture.

Better insights for an improved safety program require free circulation of information among tasks, workers, and managers. However, paper’s inefficiencies halt this flow by siloing data into individual checklists and spreadsheets. Digital tools, on the other hand, make safety data pervasive. Digital inspection data is cloud-connected and instantly available and shareable to all those who need it.

The Dodge Report highlights that small- and medium-sized companies often don’t benefit as much from their safety programs. This could be because they have fewer resources and rely on paper-based systems. These systems isolate information and hinder the development of data-driven insights crucial for a robust safety program.

Reframe, digitize, analyze

Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that only large contractors can succeed. Freivald outlines a series of eight crucial steps for any construction contractor looking to start turning their everyday activities into actionable insights.

First among these is going digital. When you digitize inspections, you can start to reframe everyday action as data and see all the trends affecting your team’s ability to do quality work effectively and safely.

Fulcrum’s digital platform is tailored for field inspection and management. It simplifies the process by enabling standardized procedures and reliable data collection. This ensures rigorous and replicable inspections, forming the foundation for safety program success. At the same time, Fulcrum is user-friendly and requires no coding, giving safety managers a flexibility to tailor inspection checklists on the fly in response to changing customer and site conditions.

Fulcrum digitizes and automates data collection for safety inspections, enabling data circulation for contractors. This provides affordable, flexible, and intuitive tools for developing data-driven insights.

Want to learn more?

For an in-depth look at how leading industrial contracting services provider, FM Sylvan, harnessed the power of data to drive their safety programs with Fulcrum, visit this Occupational Health and Safety Magazine sponsored webinar.

Or for a quick read, visit FM Sylvan’s customer story to see how it uses Fulcrum for safety.