According to recent research by Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering, using Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) will improve construction site safety by observing and evaluating the safety of temporary structures found on construction sites. Defined by the National Science Foundation, CPS are “engineered systems that are built from, and depend on, the seamless integration of computational algorithms and physical components.” CPS are predicted to facilitate improvements in capability, adaptability, scalability, resiliency, safety, security and usability in embedded systems, as well as be a spearhead in persistent advancement and competition in the agriculture, energy, transportation, building design, healthcare and manufacturing industries.
CPS has already been implemented in a few of these aforementioned industries, including manufacturing, transportation and healthcare. The construction industry will be the next area in which CPS will be utilized. Xiao Yuan, an architectural engineering Ph.D. candidate, performed a study, which examines connecting sensors on structures and virtual models to improve the safety of the majority of construction workers who work on these temporary structures. Over 75 percent of constructions workers can be found on such structures, which often include sheeting and shoring, temporary bracing or guide rails, soil backfill, formwork systems, scaffolding, the underpinning of foundations, etc. The inappropriate construction and supervision of such temporary structures is one of the major safety hazards employers and employees, alike, are concerned with today. According to OSHA’s 2014 report, 899 of the 4,386 worker fatalities in private industry, 20.5 percent, were related to the construction industry. The most frequent kind of accident was falls on job sites. OSHA also reported that of its top ten most commonly cited violations in 2015, construction fall protection and scaffolding general construction requirements were placed first and third, respectively.
OSHA has required safety training programs and practices, as well as design, installation, maintenance and dismantling regulations that are designed to decrease the occurrence of such violations. However, additional steps also need to be taken, ergo CPS. Specifically, Yuan’s research studies how CPS can foster safer construction and avoid failures of temporary structures by utilizing “virtual prototyping, data acquisition systems and communication networks.” Yuan compiled her research for use of a mobile application, which provides immediate feedback about construction sites. “Once there is a problem, our virtual model will know,” Yuan said. “It’s just like when we feel something if it hurts—the virtual model will feel if there is a problem.” The app can perform real-time inspections, remote interaction, and forewarn possible structural failures while instantly notifying workers.
Yuan breaks down how CPS works. Sensors placed on temporary structures accumulate data and send it to LabVIEW, a data acquisition system, where it is then processed and sent to the cloud database. If no potential safety hazard is detected, the system continues to function normally and collect data. However, if there is a potential hazard that is discovered, the hazard will be identified on the 3D virtual model and notifications will be sent to mobile devices used by the construction workers, safety inspectors and project managers onsite. Additionally, Yuan emphasizes that the CPS is an “intelligent” virtual model that has self-learning capabilities. “The virtual model can learn from historical behavior for intelligent identification of potential hazards in the future,” she said.
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“Cyber Monitored Buildings Will Enhance Construction Site Safety.” Claims Journal News. N.p., 01 Aug. 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.