2018 RIMS

5 Trends to Watch in Construction Technology

Sensors, 3D laser scanning, virtual reality and more are reshaping the traditional job site.
By: | April 18, 2018 • 5 min read
Topics: Construction | RIMS

Construction is not the first industry to come to mind as a user of cutting edge technology, but that’s beginning to change.  As in health care, manufacturing, transportation and many other sectors, new technologies are offering a way for contractors to do things safer and more efficiently while mitigating risk. Tom Grandmaison, EVP and Construction Industry Leader, AIG, sat down with Risk & Insurance at the annual RIMS conference and exhibition in San Antonio to discuss some of the most promising construction technologies on the horizon.


1. Wearables

Perhaps the most common form of modern technology appearing on job sites, wearable trackers are meant to improve worker safety and reduce workers’ compensation costs. They can alert supervisors when a worker is injured, getting help to them more quickly, but they also perform ergonomic functions like monitoring body position while lifting, reaching, bending and twisting.

“Sprains and strains are a big driver of workers’ comp claims and costs,” Grandmaison said.

Some wearable devices can track heart rate and body temperature to indicate when a worker is overheating. Others measure elevation – data that may come into play during investigation of a fall. Still others, like goggles, can record visual data and transmit it to a site supervisor or project manager on the ground, making it easier to communicate should a problem arise.

“There’s an emerging industrial wearables sector, with about 10-15 vendors out there bringing these products to market,” Grandmaison said

2. Building Sensors

Property sensors can help avoid costly losses caused by water infiltration.

“There’s a variety of different industrial sensors available, but the area we’re focused on is environmental sensors – things that track water, moisture and temperature,” Grandmaison said. “We had a number of claims in recent years where projects in either very hot or very cold areas were nearly complete, and then a pipe burst. When water seeps out unabated, it causes massive problems.”

Tom Grandmaison, executive vice president and construction industry leader, AIG

Building sensors that monitor temperature fluctuations or the presence of moisture can alert safety supervisors, security, or project owners and managers when conditions go awry. Stopping a leak early can save thousands in materials and labor costs.

“Sensors are generally inexpensive, and there’s great value there to prevent major losses,” Grandmaison said.

3. Radio Frequency Identification

The physical challenge of moving workers around on a job site introduces inefficiency.

“One thing we hear frequently, on bigger sites in congested city areas, is that getting workers on the lifts to get them up to the floors they’re supposed to work on – is often very difficult. It can take 45 minutes to get some of the workers to the top floor of a building,” Grandmaison said.

Radio frequency identification (RFID)  technology allows contractors to map worker movement, observing where people are working and for how long. This enables them to better plan project sequences to minimize time wasted getting from one area to another, or devise ways to better transport workers around the job site.

4. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality training modules give workers a taste of the hazardous conditions they’ll encounter on-site without putting them in harm’s way. One such module has trainees practice walking and performing tasks on steel beams hundreds of feet in the air. Perhaps no substitute for the real thing, but certainly a way to introduce new workers to a dangerous environment.

“It creates a realistic scenario for the worker and allows us to help train them in a completely safe environment,” Grandmaison said.

5. 3D Laser Scanning

Also known as LIDAR, 3D laser scanners use millions of beams of light to create three-dimensional blueprints of a finished room, measuring distances down to the millimeter. Contactors can compare these measurement to the original design to determine if the finished product was built exactly as intended.


“This allows for determination of the one truth, if you will. Contractors are leveraging this in a few different ways to minimize liability risk,” Grandmaison said. “The technology helps contractor’s document major milestones during the course of the construction.”

Construction defect claims have long tails and are a costly element of general liability risk, for which the best mitigation is thorough and detailed documentation. 3D scans provide a precise picture of completed work and can serve as a vital defense should a defect claim arise. Scans can also be taken at various stages throughout a project, documenting each major milestone, such as when the steel is erected, the floors are poured, or the roof is installed.

In instances when a project gets scuttled and a contractor replaced, these milestone scans mean builders have record of the work they completed before another contractor takes over. It could protect them from being blamed for another’s mistake if something goes wrong down the line, and helps them avoid unnecessary litigation.

We want the people we’re insuring to be safe and to build quality product, if we can help our customers lower their premiums, it’s a win-win.

Cost remains a barrier in implementing these technologies, and most are used primarily by larger contractors, but Grandmaison said the interest is there to make these tools more accessible. The entrance of younger workers could help drive the trend, and they tend to be more comfortable with technology and more open to being tracked on the job.

In addition to privacy concerns, these technologies also come with cyber, product defect and user error risks. But when used correctly, they can help shift contractors’ risk profiles for the better – something than benefits insureds and insurers alike.

“I envision a future where hopefully the use of these emerging technologies can bend the loss curve by multiples. We want the people we’re insuring to be safe and to build quality product, if we can help our customers lower their premiums, it’s a win-win,” Grandmaison said. “If we leverage these technologies correctly, it should deliver value for everyone.” &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.


But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.


Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &


Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]