Helping the construction sector stay connected

Keeping in contact with workers on site can be the difference between life and death. Stephen Westley, director at Global Mobile Communications, explains how the right rugged mobile device can increase productivity and act as a tool for verifying lone worker safety

CONNECTIVITY between employees, managers, customers and suppliers is crucial to the running of any modern day business.

But while staying connected is taken for granted by office-based professionals where Wi-Fi connection is a mere password away, the same cannot be said for construction workers, engineers and other tradespeople who, despite spending most of their time away from a desk, have to think twice about taking their shiny smartphones out on a job because the devices are susceptible to cracked screens, water damage and dwindling battery lives.

As a result, the sector lacks the level of connectivity which supports essential cloud-powered applications such as email, job rostering and collaboration tools.

Crack proof
The latest smartphone devices may be aesthetically pleasing, but they are not robust enough for use on construction sites.

Although some boast a rating of IP67, they can’t provide longevity and continual connectivity on a construction site and their fragility exposes them to damage and renders them fairly useless in tough environments, calling into question the cost savings and efficiencies brought about by their smart functionality.

If a manager has a team of smartphone devotees all wanting to use their own devices for work – for phone calls, for sharing documentation and assets – think of the cost of multiple contracts and fees for repairs when these fragile devices are damaged, not to mention the hours lost if a worker loses connectivity in the middle of the day.

To address this issue, the construction industry is turning towards the rugged mobile device which offers the same level of functionality as the latest smartphones. Rugged mobile devices are built for outdoor environments, are less easily damaged than the leading smartphones and can withstand the knocks, drops and rain site workers out on the front-line deal with on a daily basis.

Some rugged devices on the market today are armed with toughened screens and can be dropped onto solid concrete from as high as two metres without shattering.

Constant connectivity
A rugged device serves mobile workforces better if it has dual SIM capabilities, improving cellular coverage while also supporting voice-over-data networks such as Wi-Fi.

Push-to-talk functionality is a feature which allows site managers to communicate with a whole team at the push of a button.

Similarly, push-to-message enables managers to broadcast a message to 500 employees in an instant, while push-to-locate provides a useful tool for tracking workers out on the field.

Addressing lone working safety
Lone worker safety is a priority for managers in the construction sector. Being able to effectively verify the safety of a workforce at any given moment in time, and knowing about an injury as soon as it has happened, sounds like a tough need to meet – especially with employees working in different locations.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around three per cent of construction workers sustain a work-related injury each year. While a rugged mobile device can’t prevent such accidents, it can provide a lifeline for rapid help when an accident occurs.

Some of the latest rugged mobile devices can be installed with a Lone Worker Protection App by pre-configuring one of the device’s main buttons with panic alarm functionality, sending a worker’s GPS location to their manager, and allowing managers to comply with the 1974 Health and Safety Work Act. For workers who face more treacherous conditions, the accelerometer function can be set, triggering an alarm to be raised if the employee suffers a fall.

Choosing the right tool for the job
In an increasingly connected world, it goes without saying that mobile is changing the way we work for the better. Thanks to advances in rugged mobile technology, this improvement is no longer limited to office-based workers.

Builders, engineers and many other field-based professions can now also benefit, using their devices to run cloud-powered applications to drive business efficiencies and eradicating the need for hours of paperwork at the end of the week.

Ultimately, the right rugged mobile device can not only act as a tool for constant connectivity, but can also give managers the assurance that their workforce is safe and well.

Buy rugged
Launched in collaboration with rugged phone specialist Global Mobile Communications, Dewalt released its MD501 rugged mobile earlier this year. The construction giant says the Android-powered handset is:
MD501 can withstand up to 30 minutes in 2m of water
Drop proof
MD501 can withstand drops from 2m onto concrete
MD501 can withstand dust, extreme temperature from -20C to 60C and is resistant to chemical spillages and vibrations
Toughened screen
MD501 has 5" (12.7cm) HD Bright View Gorilla Toughened Glass 3
Longer battery life
MD501 has 3950 mAh batt. Standby 450 hrs. Talktime 2G/3G: 480/420 min.
Lone Work Protection
Emergency alert at the push of a button can be installed
The Dewalt MD501 rugged mobile can also be used with gloves, has GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, amplified loud speaker as well as G-sensors, gyroscopes, pressure, magnetic, light and range sensors

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