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Case Study: Automating safety compliance in construction

23/11/2022

This pilot was a collaboration between Discovering Safety (a programme of work led by the Health and Safety Executive, HSE), Safetytech Accelerator, Costain and AuditComply to explore ways of automating assurance of compliance on construction projects.

Background

Over the past 15 years a category of software applications has emerged, which use artificial intelligence, computer vision and other technologies to automate compliance procedures in complex organisations. These applications provide organisations with workflow capabilities related to compliance, such as self-assessments, control analyses, corrective action planning and controls testing. By automating these processes, compliance automation has been shown to replace the need for manual checks. Globally, a Verdantix report estimates the Environment Health and Safety software market to be worth $1.35 billion in 2020 and is forecast to reach $2.2 billion by 2025.

In theory, any regulation that involves a company’s industry, configurations, accounts, inventories, or security measures can be monitored in compliance automation software to detect violations. Although the financial services sector has been pioneering the use of these compliance technologies (RegTechs), other areas, especially industrial sectors, are expected to pick up these technologies to meet their own strict reporting and safety requirements.

The Challenge

In the construction sector, non-compliance with regulations, rules and best practices has the potential to significantly impact the health and safety of workers. Any example of this is a worker contravening agreed safe working practices in an attempt to complete a job quicker by using  machinery instead of hand tools when digging near buried utility lines.

This challenge aims to improve compliance and safety outcomes by automatically flagging aspects of work on construction projects before works start, where there was an increased risk of a worker shortcutting safety procedures.

Risk Assessment Method Statements (RAMS) are documents prepared for certain high-risk job tasks, which outline in detail the methods to be used for carrying out a job task safely. The pilot work was designed to test the feasibility of training computer algorithms to automatically review RAMS documents and identify job steps where are worker was more likely to attempt to shortcut it. Appropriate alerts could then be provided to work supervisors so they could emphasise to workers the importance of correctly following safety procedures and in doing so avoid accidents.

At Safetytech Accelerator we’re keen to explore how technologies across business sectors can be transferred or repurposed in the area of industrial safety. We began looking for technology companies that offered no-code compliance platforms with AI capabilities. For this challenge we were open to adopting platforms from other sectors such as FinTech where compliance automation is widely adopted. Following a thorough international search, three startups were given the chance to present their solutions.

AuditComply, a Belfast based AI start-up, was chosen as the technology partner. Their platform has built-in capabilities to carry out automated compliance in multiple sectors. We were also impressed by the enthusiasm to expand on their small but valuable baseline of safety use-cases.

The Pilot

The objective of the pilot was to improve compliance in the construction sector by automatically flagging potential shortcuts contravening safety guidance just before work begins. By doing so, we would be demonstrating the potential of RegTech in an industrial sector.

The first task was to build up a data set of RAMS, RIDDOR (post-incident) and known shortcut documents. We were fortunate to have Costain as a partner as they were able to provide real world examples of shortcuts, documents and insights to complement the HSE data sets.

AuditComply’s platform provided a risk assessment module which was used as a base model for further training. Text data was imported into AuditComply using a templating feature which can be easily configured for different document types.

Industry experts reviewed the text from RAMS and highlighted potential issues within the method statements and controls (safety guidance) that were available from post-incident RIDDORs.

 

A platform screen showing relationships between risk and controls
A platform screen showing relationships between risk and controls

 

By understanding the relationships between methods, controls, activities and hazards – the pilot team were able to construct a large synthetic data set of good versus poor scenarios to train the AI model.

The pilot was conducted remotely with partners distributed across the UK. AuditComply’s platform was also hosted on UK servers.

Results

It was vital for the final model to predict the quality of the RAMS as determined by the experts from a comprehensive data set that was used to train the model.

When testing, the model’s risk predictions were compared against known residual risk (risk remaining after applying the controls) to highlight if there was a mismatch. This was key to be able to identify a shortcut as RAMS don’t reflect the risk inherent in the control and method descriptions.

 

Using the solution to predict potential shortcuts when unloading concrete 
Using the solution to predict potential shortcuts when unloading concrete

 

The pilot solution performed with an accuracy of 90+%. This is an encouraging start and the model can be continuously improved by simply training it with new RAMS as they become available.

The pilot solution is now with HSE and Costain to explore further safety compliance use-cases.

“Understanding the intricacies of the risk involved in an activity and the impact they may have on the people and environment is critical to building a system that trains AI models in best practice when analysing RAMS documents. The existing technology within AuditComply particularly referencing the Risk Assessment module gave us the ability to accelerate the learning and develop the key use cases for automating compliance. The additional expertise of HSE and Costain gave us the best collaborative team to deliver a solution that was capable of predicting the likelihood of shortcuts and acting as the cornerstone for managing risk by activity across a range of projects.  The Safetytech Accelerator team diligently and expertly guided the pilot project from beginning to end with a sound conclusion and future recommendations.”

Kevin Donaghy (CEO), AuditComply

Industrial Impact

This safetytech pilot demonstrated that a compliance platform can be used to automate the identification of shortcuts in the construction sector. FinTech solutions are already assuring compliance for a variety of financial services from loans to insurance claims. Now there is a huge opportunity to explore safety compliance in sectors ranging from utilities to transport infrastructure.

“With the support of Safetytech Accelerator, Discovering Safety  were able to work with AuditComply and Costain to test the feasibility of automatically detecting, using computer algorithms, the increased risk of construction workers taking shortcuts on job tasks and in doing so failing to follow safe working procedures.

The team are interested in exploring opportunities to extend the work to include the parallel use of other emerging technologies, to automate the assurance of compliant behaviours in frontline workers, more directly.”

Steven Naylor, Technical Research Lead, Discovering Safety

 “It has been a pleasure to work with the Safety Accelerator programme to help guide the initial development of AI capability to identify behavioural weaknesses in planned safe systems of work. Early feedback is promising and the potential to improve the way we work across the industry is game-changing.”

Lawrence Webb, Group SHE Strategy Director, Costain

Want to know more? Join our webinar!

Safetytech Accelerator is holding a webinar on the 8th of December at 1pm, where we bring together speakers from Discovering Safety, (a programme of work led by the Health and Safety Executive), Costain Group PLC and compliance automation firm AuditComply, to discuss how technology can help automate compliance in construction to improve safety.

This will be an exploration of how technologies across business sectors can be transferred to improve safety and reduce risk in safety-critical industries.

Find out more and register to join the webinar here. 

Read about other work we’ve done in construction.

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About Discovering Safety

Discovering Safety aspires to be a leader in innovative, data driven health and safety with the aim of improving operational performance through the use of data and analytical techniques. To date it has developed and is delivering a programme of work with partners based on extracting insights from HSE and other organisations data to feed into a range of industry endorsed proof of concept applications. For more information or to get in touch visit discoveringsafety.com

 About the Health and Safety Executive 

HSE’s Science Division, is one of the world’s leading providers of health and safety solutions to industry, government and professional bodies. The main focus of our work is on understanding and reducing health and safety risks. We provide health and safety consultancy, research, specialist training and products to our customers worldwide. Our long history developing health and safety solutions means that we’re well placed to understand the changing industrial, regulatory and societal landscape, and to anticipate future issues. We employ scientific, medical and technical specialists, drawing on their wealth of knowledge and experience to deliver evidence-based solutions to our clients.

About AuditComply

Northern Ireland based AuditComply is a leading Risk & Audit Management platform. Providing solutions, expertise and insights required to navigate complex regulations, avoid disruption & build a more risk intelligent enterprise.

AuditComply operates in highly regulated industries including Automotive, Food & Beverage, Oil & Gas, Finance and Manufacturing. Working with a range of fortune 100 companies across five continents.

About Costain

Costain helps to improve people’s lives with integrated, leading edge, smart infrastructure solutions across the UK’s energy, water, transportation, and defence markets. They help their clients improve business performance by increasing capacity, improving customer service, safeguarding security, enhancing resilience, decarbonising, and delivering increased efficiency. Clients are offered leading edge solutions that are digitally optimised through the following five services which cover the whole lifecycle of their assets: future-shaping strategic consultancy; consultancy and advisory; digital technology solutions; asset optimisation and complex programme delivery.

About Safetytech Accelerator

Safetytech Accelerator is a non-profit established by Lloyd’s Register. It is the first fully dedicated technology accelerator focused on safety and risk in industrial sectors. Our mission is to make the world safer and more sustainable through wider adoption of safetytech.

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