4 Computer Vision Apps for Health and Safety on Your Construction Site

By Liz Oz • Nov 05, 2021

Computer Vision for Construction Safety Solutions

Injury rates in construction sites are 71% higher than injury rates across all industries on average. Now, part of this is the cost of doing business. Construction can require hundreds of people laboring with heavy equipment or at unsafe heights. Construction, by definition, has health and safety risks inherent, and injuries can be challenging to reduce entirely. 

However, construction managers know the value of a safe workplace. When injuries go down, productivity improves, and companies can expect to see effects on everything from employee satisfaction to workers’ compensation expense reductions. 

‌Traditionally, organizations rely on the company culture and employees to do health and safety monitoring. However, this isn’t always effective due to human error and lack of knowledge. Even if you host frequent training sessions or safety meetings for your employees, that’s no guarantee that they will remember or understand everything you said. Even if they remember and understand everything you said, there’s no guarantee they will implement these policies.

That is why some tech-savvy construction companies have started adopting Computer Vision (CV) to ensure employees are operating safely. CV digitizes the physical environment to help identify situations, behaviors, and circumstances that may be unsafe. For example, CV can help you identify a situation that involves a truck containing various chemicals coming into a work zone as a potentially dangerous situation. From there, employees can schedule the necessary safety support measures, analyze what may happen, and try to reduce risks.

Computer Vision can be construed in certain organizations as a form of high-tech surveillance. While the technology does have the power to track people and movement, Computer Vision technology does not store or share information about an individual’s movement patterns, actions taken, etc., with anyone. It’s important to understand that CV gives overseers more visibility into the overarching effectiveness of their safety programs. Covid has added a new degree of difficulty in mask-wearing, physical distancing, etc. Computer Vision is not intended to, on the other hand, be used for strict employee monitoring. 

In other words, Computer Vision helps people understand and make meaning about everything that happens in the physical environment. It offers predictive analysis, which can help you know what may happen in the future based on activity patterns in the past. Further, it enables you to monitor what you usually can’t put sensors on in your physical environment. For instance, you can’t put sensors on everyone’s heads and hats to ensure they’re working within proximity best practices from one another. However, you can install a set of CV-enabled cameras that allow you to calculate the distance between each worker. These cameras will also allow you to determine:

  • If someone has overextended a ladder
  • If a truck is going too fast
  • Other safety issues that you may not be able to determine if you used traditional methods such as sensors or human monitoring

Read on to learn about four real-world CV applications that can help companies ensure that your workforce is abiding by safety standards.

1. Object Detection Alerts for Safety Gear and PPE

Firstly, CV can send you alerts when a particular object is or, sometimes, more importantly, is not present. This CV application can be beneficial in detecting employees not equipped with proper PPE like helmets, vests, face shields, or spectacles. 

You can also train CV models to detect any of the following:

  • Whether an employee is wearing earplugs or earmuffs near a noisy area
  • Gloves are being worn when operating different types of machinery
  • Masks and respirators are being used to protect against exposure to fumes of certain chemicals or pollutants

In theory, any safety equipment you want to enforce can be monitored with Computer Vision. CV models can be trained to detect the presence of desired PPE or lack thereof, and can even become trained well enough to detect the minute differences between types of masks, eyewear, or gloves needed for different types of jobs.  

Now, it’s essential to understand that outfitting one camera on a job site to monitor hundreds of employees’ PPE compliance is likely insufficient. Edge Computer Vision, which connects to your pre-existing security camera infrastructure, relies on strategically placed equipment pointed directly at key interaction points to work appropriately. For example, if you have a hazardous area of your job site, a dedicated camera is probably worthwhile due to the risk of injury. Similarly, if you have a sprawling worksite with hundreds of workers moving around, it’s best not to rely on one camera to detect PPE. One camera can only pick up details so well. Train more cameras on smaller areas for maximum accuracy.

2. Spacial Awareness with Person Detection Models

Workplaces need Computer Vision to constantly watch everything to help monitor physical distancing and send alerts to notify employees, not in compliance. The last thing you need is a worker struck by a swinging backhoe through lack of attention to detail. 

This application is essentially a basic object detector with bounding boxes around each person in the video feed. While it can help solve simple problems such as determining how many people are in the warehouse at a specific time, it’s hard to determine how far apart each person is. That’s because this basic model only identifies the center of each person, not their height or size.

TIP: Many engineers make assumptions about height and room dimensions to calculate how far each person is. However, you need to add depth and perspective if you want precision by using RBG depth cameras. These cameras will give you the pixels in the image as well as the depth of every pixel. You’ll also have the Z-axis, so you’ll be able to know the geometry of every object in view.

3. People Counting for Capacity Restrictions

To count how many people are in a given space for capacity restrictions, you can also use object detection models. 

If the space in question is vast, you can cut a broader view into specific zones. This process will allow you to determine how many people are in one half of the hall versus the other. A premier example of such tools is alwaysAI’s zone tool. With this tool, all you have to do is draw the zone on your camera feed to cut the view.

Since people are constantly moving around, you should also use people tracking. Also known as object tracking, people tracking goes frame by frame. As people move around a camera frame, the program pipes the object detection results into a tracker, assigning a unique ID to each person. Since each person in the room or area has a unique ID, the program will easily track the movement of individuals through different zones to understand total capacity and which zone people are in. This level of tracking will give you enough information to act accordingly if any areas are reaching or have reached full capacity.

4. Human Activity Detection for Safety Compliance

Activity detection models can act as your backup and can monitor for undesired behavior, things the naked eye miss like: 

  • People running 
  • Workers slipping in an unexpectedly wet area
  • A ladder moving excessively horizontal as a worker climbs
  • People holding handrails on stairs 
  • Entrances to dangerous or restricted areas. 

After you’ve gathered enough statistics about harmful “activities” at your site, take a look at the statistics compiled by your CV software. Suppose you notice particular patterns that need fixing (i.e 15% of the staff skip slipped in specific wet areas over a day). In that case, you can dedicate resources to rectify those issues, whether it calls for additional training, corrective action, or future investment.

To Wrap It Up

Without Computer Vision, you would have to rely on your company culture and wide swaths of employees to do the work of health and safety monitoring. 

Implementing a culture that encourages health and safety monitoring is essential but often difficult because it’s almost impossible to make sure everyone is on the same page. Employees will have to understand and prioritize their company values and educate others and act on these values. This traditional method of ensuring safety policy compliance in your worksite is highly dependent on people paying attention, doing the right things, and knowing what the right things are.

That’s why you should use Computer Vision. CV will always watch over your employees — unlike humans, CV will never lose focus, fail to do the right things, or forget the task at hand. CV can also help you strengthen your company culture. So if you’re having problems with people not holding the stairwell in a specific area, for instance, you can use CV to determine if more training is needed or if there’s another cultural problem behind this.

CV will also help you comply with OSHA since it can keep detailed records of safety compliance. Keep in mind that CV is not about busting people for not following rules — instead, it’s about being able to train people better.

Join the alwaysAI Community

If you’re looking for a powerful and intuitive deep learning Computer Vision platform, consider getting alwaysAI. alwaysAI gives developers a flexible and easy way to build, train, and deploy CV applications to Edge devices. All you have to do is choose a model, develop your application, and deploy it to the Edge.

Interested? Schedule a demo today to learn how to leverage alwaysAI in your workplace.

About alwaysAI®

alwaysAI® provides developers and enterprises a comprehensive platform for building, deploying, and managing Computer Vision applications on IoT devices. We make Computer Vision come alive on the Edge - where work and life happen. The alwaysAI platform offers a catalog of pre-trained models, a low-code model training toolkit, and a powerful set of APIs to help developers at all levels build and customize CV apps. alwaysAI® has an easy deployment process and a state-of-the-art run-time engine to accelerate computer vision apps into production quickly, securely, and affordably.

Make advanced AI easy for your organization. Register for free to get started today, or schedule a demo and talk to our Computer Vision experts about your business.

By Liz Oz • Nov 05, 2021




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