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Researcher explores how to make temporary structures on construction sites safer

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Photo: Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA – Temporary structures used on construction sites can be monitored and assessed for safety through the use of data-collecting sensors, according to new research from Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Architectural Engineering.

For the study, Xiao Yuan, an architectural engineering Ph.D. candidate at the university, placed data-collecting sensors called Cyber-Physical Systems on temporary structures, which may include sheeting and shoring, temporary bracing or guide rails, soil backfill, formwork systems, scaffolding, and the underpinning of foundations. A virtual model then collected the data and sent it to a data acquisition system. If problems were detected, workers would receive immediate notification of issues through a mobile app.

“Once there is a problem, our virtual model will know,” Yuan said in a July 28 press release. “It’s just like when we feel something if it hurts – the virtual model will feel if there is a problem.”

CPS, which relies on the integration of algorithms and physical processes, has been used in the health care, manufacturing and transportation industries, but is new to construction.

Yuan’s setup allowed for inspections in real time, remote interaction and advance notice of potential failures. However, “There are some limitations to testing the system in the labs,” Yuan said. “If we want to apply this technology in the real world, we need to test in the real world.”

According to OSHA statistics, one in five worker deaths in private industry occurred in the construction industry. In fiscal year 2015, fall protection and scaffolding ranked first and third, respectively, among OSHA’s 10 most frequently cited standards violations.

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