Without the right communication tools, construction workers are putting themselves at risk

When it comes to the use of consumer-grade mobile phones, industry experts are all in agreement: they’re distractions and potential hazards.

And yet according to a report by Hytera, 82% of those it reviewed stated that their organisation uses mobile phones as a primary communication system in the field.

What problems can arise when using mobile phones and how are they a health and safety hazard on construction sites?


Distractions cause disasters

While operating motorised vehicles (cranes, forklifts) or high-powered machinery (saws, drills), workers need to be able to communicate hands-free and without distraction. If a worker has to reach for a mobile phone or any other communication device whilst operating such machinery, they run the risk of injuring themselves and/or others.

They could, of course, completely stop what they are doing and answer the call/read the message, but construction workers are under such pressure to deliver that halting – even for a moment – is a delay they cannot afford.

Having the right communication tools on a construction site is critical to safety and yet 1-in-5 businesses admit to not having any safety critical communication tools. That’s just unacceptable in an industry where cost-effective, hands-free communication tools (two-way radios) are available.

Instead, many construction workers use mobile phones – but they aren’t designed for the daily rigours of the construction site and can be major construction site hazards.


No health and safety features

Lone worker, man down and GPS tracking are absolutely essential for any hazardous operation. Mobile phones have none of these safety-critical features but are the go-to for many projects!

The fact is that a lot of construction workers work unsupervised and spread out across the site. However, if these lone workers are injured or trapped – they need a way to signal for help. If an area has collapsed, for example, trapping the worker, there’s a good chance their mobile signal will not be able to penetrate the wreckage (just as you lose signal when you pass through a tunnel) or the device may be damaged. If the worker is injured, it may not be possible for them to reach for their mobile phone.

Of the three crucial safety features mentioned above, the only one a mobile phone could potentially provide is GPS tracking – but this will require a third-party application and there is no guarantee of accuracy. Furthermore, most of these applications require 4G or WiFi connectivity – neither of which will function if the phone has no signal!


Poor performance, poor durability

Mobile phones might utilise cutting-edge technology but they’re designed for consumer applications: personal conversations, entertainment, music and so on. So when it comes to communication on construction sites (where devices are exposed to the elements – dust, rain, grime – and workers need to be available throughout their shift) they fail to meet requirements.

As for durability (battery life and ruggedness), even the most powerful of mobile phones can’t last a day under continuous use and will be damaged (or break) when dropped.


How can two-way radios help?

It’s clear that mobile phones are inadequate for communication on construction sites. The solution is to implement two-way radios – but how can they help?


Two-way radios are built for use in harsh and hazardous environments. They’ll survive falls, dust exposure, submersion, explosion and much more. In terms of use, they can last an entire shift without charge (and if needs be, the batteries can be replaced on the fly).


Real-time communication

When a worker needs to relay a message or alert a supervisor or specific team of an issue or emergency, they need to be able to communicate quickly. Mobile phones are notoriously slow – the user has to enter the recipient’s number and then wait for the call to connect (and it might not depending on signal coverage). Two-way radios, on the other hand, provide instantaneous communication at the push of a button and the signal can be amplified through the use of repeaters. No more dead zones.


Safety first

Digital two-way radios include all the necessary functions and features workers need to work safely and confidently: GPS tracking, man down, lone worker, SMS, real-time communication, alarms and much, much more. These features, combined with real-time communication, means that emergencies can be responded to as quickly as possible.


What else can construction site supervisors do?

As well as acquiring and implementing digital two-way radios, there are a few things site supervisors can do to further improve health and safety on the construction site:

Develop policies to inhibit bad practices

If workers are using mobile phones to communicate, ensure they have hands-free accessories, such as earpieces and microphones, so they don’t have to take their phone out. Doing so could be disastrous if they are operating machinery and check their phone. Digital two-way radios are a much better option as they have voice-activated communication, Bluetooth headsets and belt clips to keep them in place.


Block internet access

If contractors are using issued mobile devices, block internet connectivity to minimise distractions.


Ultimately, digital two-way radios are best-in-class when it comes to communication solutions for harsh and hazardous environments. If you’re looking to hire or purchase digital two-way radios for your construction operation, we can help. We offer a variety of systems and solutions and two-way radio options, so get in touch if you’re interested