Sponsored: Triax Technologies

How the Internet of Things Can Help Solve Construction’s Safety Challenges

Contractors need a tech-driven answer to increase worker safety and productivity on the jobsite.
By: | May 30, 2018 • 5 min read

Heavy machinery, tall scaffolding, a diverse workforce, and large, chaotic project sites are just some of the factors that make worker safety a top challenge and priority for the construction industry.

“It’s one of the more dangerous industries in the U.S. with disproportionate fatality and injury rates compared to the rest of the working population,” said Pete Schermerhorn, President and Chief Operating Officer, Triax Technologies.

In 2016, construction accounted for 21.1 percent of all private industry fatalities, and falls accounted for 38.7 percent of those fatalities [1]. As a result, construction companies pay some of the highest workers’ compensation premiums.

The construction industry’s reliance on manual processes, paper-based records, and legacy reporting systems also presents safety and risk management challenges for construction managers and insurance professionals because it traps important project information away in a filing cabinet or in the jobsite trailer.

This makes claims management and investigation a challenge, forcing contractors to dig through written reports that can be incomplete or inaccurate. Without a digital database of safety incident information across projects or an organization, contractors and insurers miss an opportunity to seamlessly analyze data to identify trends and risks that can help them build safer in the future.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a promising solution to some of these pressing challenges.

Innovative, connected solutions combine a mesh network, wearables and equipment sensors to help solve construction’s safety challenges while boosting productivity and providing unprecedented visibility into safety practices. Spot-r by Triax Technologies is one such solution. Combined with intelligent software and data analytics, this system gives insurers a new look into what’s happening at the jobsite with their contractors.

A Tech-Driven Answer 

Pete Schermerhorn, President and Chief Operating Officer

Triax’s cloud-connected worker wearable, the Spot-r Clip, provides an improved, streamlined form of on-site monitoring and communication. With the press of a button, a worker can alert his foreman to an unsafe condition, such as loose scaffolding, or a situation that requires assistance. The supervisor need only check the Spot-r system’s central dashboard to identify the worker’s floor and zone-based location on site.

These sophisticated wearable tags can also detect fall events and collect data around the circumstances of an injury, tracking factors such as the height of a fall and the ambient conditions. The dashboard will also let the supervisor identify who else was in proximity when the incident occurred.

“A wearable device records the fall and tells us when and where the incident occurred,” Schermerhorn said. “It automatically notifies designated personnel, which helps to improve injury response by more than 90 percent, but it also documents critical incident information including a timestamp, distance of fall, and weather on site. This completely streamlines the documentation process and creates a robust digital record that can be used to identify risks in the hopes of preventing future incidents.”

Connecting the Spot-r Clip to the Spot-r EquipTag can also help reduce the risk of non-certified workers taking control of a piece of heavy machinery. The EquipTag adheres to machinery and equipment on site and works with the Spot-r Clip to detect operator identity. The system also checks worker certifications, maintained in the Spot-r dashboard, sending supervisors a notification if there’s an unknown or unauthorized worker in the vicinity of tagged equipment.

In addition, despite today’s tech-advanced world, most site supervisors use nothing more sophisticated than a blowhorn to signal an evacuation. Given the size and high noise level of some job sites, this is not an efficient way to get a message to workers quickly, and every moment of delay further jeopardizes workers’ safety. In the event of a fire or other emergency, evacuation speed is critical, and IoT-enabled alert systems are improving this process.

“With a connected solution, like Spot-r, a general contractor would only need to access the cloud dashboard and click ‘Enable Evacuation’ to sound an alarm on all of the workers’ Clips, as well as a system of mounted evacuation alarms,” Schermerhorn said.

Designed to withstand the challenges of an active construction site, the Spot-r EvacTag can get the message to workers faster with a 100-decibel, flashing alarm, that is also amplified by an audible alarm on each worker’s wearable device.

“Our EvacTags help get people off-site as much as 70 percent faster. The human and safety implications are significant — in an emergency situation, you want to get people out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.” Schermerhorn said.

Productivity Pros

That speed is also a boon for productivity. General contractors are often required by their jurisdictions or their insurance carriers to conduct evacuation drills at regular intervals. If those drills can be completed 70 percent faster, the entire emergency preparation process is much more efficient and effective. When workers or sites view practicing safety as a time-consuming distraction, safety itself can suffer.

There is also great value in digitizing and centralizing this data, eliminating paper processes and the time associated with locating and verifying paper records. Assigning a wearable Clip to every worker helps contactors accurately document where those workers are spending their time on site, allowing foremen to proactively measure progress and adjust scheduling or reassign workers to different tasks as needed.

Similarly, the Spot-r EquipTag optimizes equipment usage by collecting data around a machine’s utilization and active vs. idle time. That information can be used to reassign that equipment to another location where it can be put to better use.

A Solution Built for Construction

The realities of the construction site, however, often impede the use of platform technology that can centralize the data generated by connected devices and make it accessible in real time. Such a system requires reliable connectivity and must have the ability to withstand the dust, vibrations and tough building materials created by construction work.

“A primary challenge is that there’s no fixed structure to attach a network to. The materials in play are constantly moving. Additionally, concrete and steel are difficult to penetrate from a radio frequency standpoint, so it’s tough to maintain a steady connection,” Schermerhorn said.

There also aren’t many places to plug in.

“It’s one of the most inhospitable environments for IoT technology.”

By creating a closed mesh network, Triax’s construction-specific Spot-r solution is not reliant on any existing Wi-Fi networks.

“It exists on its own, which means you’re able to travel throughout the site and stay connected in areas where you might not normally have satellite connectivity,” Schermerhorn said.

Spot-r’s wearable devices and equipment tags are rechargeable and automatically switch on and off, saving a lot of daily hassle.

“The system is low-maintenance and non-invasive,” Schermerhorn said. “It’s solutions like this that are helping to bring construction into the 21st century.”

To learn more, visit https://www.triaxtec.com/workersafety/.



This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Triax Technologies. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

Through its flagship Spot-r system, Triax Technologies provides real-time visibility into workers, equipment, and safety on site, resulting in increased operational efficiency, faster response to injuries and overall improved project management.

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.


Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.

R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.


We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?


Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.


Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.


More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]