How Evolving Technology Is Disrupting the Construction Sector

Shutts & Bowen LLP

Take a look at a construction site today and you may see drones flying overhead, robots working on buildings, and construction workers donning wearable technology that monitors their health and activity. Construction technology has continued to progress with the times, and companies within the industry are utilizing the latest advancements more than ever before – often before an actual project has even begun. Communications are seamlessly delivered each morning with updates on the latest designs, while contracts, timelines and bids are reviewed via mobile applications and devices, and engineers use 4D models to visualize, and revise projects without a hitch. As technology has progressed, job sites have become safer, projects run more smoothly, delays have been avoided, and costs have been reduced. 

Project efficiency and jobsite safety for workers has substantially improved through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) equipped with technology, as well as innovative tools and machinery.  Wearable technology can detect fatigue by monitoring heart rate, temperature and steps, while also detecting potential exposure to harmful toxins or providing proximity warnings for approaching vehicles and heavy equipment. Additionally, sensors mounted across construction sites can help confirm compliance with OSHA regulations.  As labor shortages continue to plague the industry, robots can be used to perform basic physical or repetitive tasks, which could compensate for human fatigue and a reduced workforce.  Video communications and teleconferencing tools with remote workers can be employed throughout a project to confirm proper procedures are followed on-site, and also offer support to field workers.  Drones can monitor dangerous work sites (such as bridges) for equipment malfunctions and security breaches, scan construction sites daily and note completed tasks, and perform topographical mapping surveys at a reduced cost.

With the introduction of new technologies to the construction industry, businesses should carefully consider how the utilization of such new and powerful tools can affect exposure to future litigation.  For optimal use, employees should be taught or re-trained on how new construction technologies work across the jobsite and in what capacity their uses are intended.  In some cases, it may be required to disclose the use of technology to the workforce, such as wearable technology and other monitors.  Additionally, drone usage throughout the construction site must comply with FAA regulations and local rules or ordinances. As technology continues to improve, the use of such wearables, drones, and sensors could become the minimum standard, forcing construction companies to embrace these evolving trends.  Although new advancements may circumvent many disputes, it will be important for businesses to take an ethical approach in their utilization of such tools, especially as privacy and the management of personal information is concerned.

It is important for businesses to maintain updated construction contracts, employee contracts, and to confirm conformance with state and federal guidelines when using new construction technology.  

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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