The Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association (SCSA) is betting that technological innovation will help identify and eliminate safety hazards in the Prairie province’s building industry.
Through a partnership with the province’s Innovation Saskatchewan, the central agency of the government responsible for innovation priorities, the SCSA has embarked on a competition called the Innovation Challenge to find a company or individual that can provide tech solutions that identify industry hazards and ultimately reduce injuries.
“Most of the time when someone gets hurt it is because they didn’t recognize how dangerous it was (to perform a task) before they did it and they didn’t have a really good plan to do deal with it,” said Collin Pullar, president of the SCSA.
The competition, which is open to technology startups, entrepreneurs, researchers and students, recently saw a dozen interested parties at an information session, said Pullar. A shortlist of entrants will be evaluated in late summer before a winner is selected.
That winner will receive up to $10,000 to develop their idea in collaboration with the SCSA over a 16-week residency.
Pullar says the safety association is open ideas to mitigate hazards ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to augmented reality. The solution might be tailored to recognize physical or even psychological hazards.
While the winner might offer something new and never heard of before, Pullar says alternatively the solution could be “a twist” on an existing idea that is a fit with the SCSA’s circumstances.
“That’s where the innovation comes in.”
As a case in point, he suggests someone might have an idea that expands on current software that identifies objects through photos or images. A phone app, for example, which helps builders recognize hazardous materials or dangerous conditions on a site could improve production and reduce risks, he points out.
Another thought, Pullar adds, is that the solution could be in a tool such as a retinal scan to evaluate a worker’s level of readiness or exhaustion for a task at hand.
”The hope is that we will have something fairly substantive (early next year),” he says, adding that it might not be market-ready immediately.
“I hope it’s something that shows a lot of promise that we could implement fairly quickly or incorporate with our (member) businesses” and other companies.
The SCSA has about 10,000 members in the province.
Pullar calls the association’s board “very future focused” and open to finding ways of using technology to being more productive in its safety practices.
“COVID has probably accelerated a lot of this. A lot of companies (members) say that they want less paperwork, make it faster, more accessible for information for workers,” he says
That it why the SCSA developed a mobile app containing the top 40 or so issues facing the industry.
In a press announcement, Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan, said: “The Innovation Challenge is a great way to tap into the growing and vibrant tech sector in Saskatchewan. By developing an innovative solution to identifying hazards, we will further increase safety for construction workers across the province.”
The Innovation Challenge is a recurring initiative but it is the first time it has been directed at the construction industry.