Companies are coming up with new and innovative solutions to keep workers on construction sites safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond from hard hat face shields to disinfection services to smart helmets.
These items were discussed at a webinar billed as Smart Technologies and Innovations for Adapting to the New Normal, held recently by the Ontario Road Builders’ Association.
Michael Romano, CEO of Val Resources based in Brampton, Ont., highlighted a new hard hat face shield his company created.
“The CV-19 came about because several workers on construction sites came up to me and said, ‘Is there any way you can help us get over the use of these face masks, especially in the extreme heat?’ ” Romano explained, adding workers complained the masks were cumbersome and made it difficult to talk and breathe while working.
“The prototype we came out with in April is a direct result of the guys with the boots to the ground coming to us and saying we need something better, easier, faster to deploy.”
There are two types: a hard hat face shield for all types of hard hats and helmets and a ball cap or eyelit face shield for ball caps and other hard brimmed hats. The shields are made of polyethylene. It’s eight inches wide and 9.5 inches long and connects to the side tether strap slots, leaving room for tether straps as well, and attaches to the front of the hard hat. Since it has no hinges it can be raised or lowered, Romano said. It’s reusable, recyclable, fog resistant and protects against other elements as well.
“Once it’s in place, it stays in place. It’s extremely strong,” Romano said. “It’s 100 per cent made in Ontario and it’s patent pending. This is a permanent type of response to the mask situation.”
The company has been testing the solution on three different sites.
“After three months they are still using them, still love them and they have saved a tonne of money,” said Romano. “It is excellent for anywhere on the site indoor or outdoor, in the yard, in trucks.”
One mask costs less than two N95 face masks, he added.
“The most important thing I got in terms of feedback is the amount of savings the company has incurred by not purchasing masks,” said Romano.
Travis Saunders, general manager of PGC Services, spoke about the company’s disinfection service.
“We began disinfecting common touchpoints and documenting each clean as every business has in Ontario,” Saunders noted. “What we found is internally, in our own fleet, there was that requirement as well as in the office space but there was a need out there to provide this service dealing with our clients. The largest challenge they were facing was first of all the availability of a disinfecting solution and something that was convenient and easily accessible.”
The service includes the spray down of exterior surfaces with hot water and premixed disinfecting solution. Common touchpoints — exterior doors, surfaces, construction trailers, vehicles with handles, switches, knobs, levers — are all disinfected in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“Any and every place that someone will touch is regularly disinfected,” said Saunders, adding they were able to downgrade the water pressure in the vehicles to use safe and manageable pressure that doesn’t strip any paint or damage windows. “We are able to reach hard-to-reach, hard-to-service areas on construction sites, middle of the highway lane closures, any sort of Porta Potti.”
Marc Brunet, business development representative with Jannatec Technologies, which is based in Sudbury, Ont., discussed a smart helmet that is mostly used for the mining industry but lends itself to construction as well. The helmet includes an integrated proximity warning system, 360 hi-viz LEDS, voice activated calling, integrated RFID (radio frequency identification) tagging and a worker POV camera.
“The smart helmet comes in different tiers, some that are going to have the high visibility, which are lights on the side, detect people’s proximity around machinery and social distancing alert and tracing capabilities,” said Brunet. “Capabilities are Bluetooth LTE and WiFi, built in camera with secure access, microphone, speakers and it runs on a rechargeable battery.”
The social distancing alerting and tracing option was added due to COVID-19.
“It’s equipped with ultra-wideband sensors,” Brunet explained. “If ever workers get inside two metres to each other those LEDs on the hardhat start to flash — a slow rate at two metres, quicker at one metre. It provides visual and audible feedback.
“The helmet itself can store up to two days interactions between the workers. As it gets WiFi, it automatically dumps the information to a designated database. You can use that for tracing.”
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