Photo Documentation improves Safety in Construction

by SLY BARISIC, FotoIN

This article was originally published to the FotoIN blog on August 27, 2015.

Nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites and it is estimated that there are 24,882 injuries per year simply due to falls from stairways and ladders.

Construction is a dangerous business and safety is obviously a very important consideration. However, controlling and managing for safety risks requires planning and execution (12 Steps to a Safer Jobsite by ACE), and this includes good safety documentation.

What about photos and visual evidence as part of the safety documentation?

AGC Georgia and AGC Carolinas recently held a great event about safety technology used on site and across the project stages (more info on the event here). General Contractors from Georgia presented the solutions they use (BIM 360, iAudit, SafetyTrainingExchange, FotoIN and others) and discussed the opportunity to leverage the technology to help improve safety on the jobsite.

Photos came up throughout the presentations and discussion. It was apparent that the need to have good photo documentation is extremely important and needs to be addressed by all the General contractors and by any of the technology solutions.

Key photo functionality needs called out:

  • Ability to easily capture photos with individual issues and inspections
  • Ability to draw and annotate on photos
  • Easily associating photos to the correct project and/or category
  • Not having to manually enter all the data for each photo
  • Ability to easily reference and find the right photos later (OSHA audits, legal disputes, etc.)
  • Using captured photos easily across systems already used to manage other parts of the project

Given that the average cost per case of fatal or nonfatal injury is $27,000 in construction, almost double the per-case cost of $15,000 for all industry in 2002. it is not surprising that everyone in the Construction industry is trying to figure out the best way to not only capture safety data for analysis but also provide visual evidence of the observations. There is a lot going on every day on the site and just filing out the checklist doesn’t cut it any more.

Confirming integrity of data is a must when making decisions that impact not just the bottom line but safety of workers on site. Examples of the questions that may be asked: when was the checklist complete, by who exactly, how accurate are the data observations in the checklist...and so on. Keeping everyone accountable is increasingly hard and this is where photos can be critical..

Key benefits of good safety photo documentation:

  • Improve field to office communication
  • Keep everyone accountable
  • Have visual evidence to resolve disputes
  • Reduce legal, compliance and insurance costs

Visual evidence and verification not only help keep everyone on the job site accountable but can also be used in unfortunate cases where there are legal disputes and/or insurance considerations.

Today there is technology for everything, including safety apps and technology that can help all stakeholders on Construction site including GCs, subs, engineers, safety managers, superintendents. But to get the most out of your safety solution make sure you consider photo functionality as well, and pick the solution that will help you capture and manage safety photo documentation well.

Key tips when looking at photo functionality of any safety solution:

  • Simple and easy photo capture in the field
    • mobile and no internet required
    • if it is too hard, crew doesn’t use it and you don’t get the photos
    • verifiable data captured together with the photos vs. separately
  • Efficient vs. laborious
    • doesn’t waste time and distracts from building process
    • too many manual steps and data entry points limit adoption
  • Manageable
    • robust admin and management functions are a must have
    • easy keyword search and filtering

Photos as visual verification evidence are a crucial part of any safety program and project documentation in Construction. They help hold everyone accountable, enable better communication and save you money in the end.