SmartSite uses sensors to monitor construction workers’ health and safety

A startup called SmartSite has released hardware and cloud-based software to help the construction industry track what their employees are exposed to and take measures to protect them from harm.

Cancer, respiratory problems, dermatitis from skin exposure to hazardous substances, and health problems from high levels of exposure to noise and vibrations are among the occupational safety and health problems most commonly experienced by construction workers.

And deaths in construction in the U.S. have sadly risen in recent years, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Labor, with 874 fatal occupational injuries in the field in 2014.

To help reduce the health risks in the industry, SmartSite’s systems monitor noise levels, airborne particulates and UV rays.

According to co-founders Michael Andrea and James Batstone, SmartSite’s hardware hub contains off-the-shelf sensors including a microphone, laser particle counters and UV sensors.

SmartSite's system monitors particulates, UV rays and more on construction sites.

SmartSite’s system monitors particulates, UV rays and more on construction sites.

Their software is completely proprietary, however, and lets construction teams quickly see where and when their workers are safe, or may be at risk, on a given job.

Andrea and Batstone said they became interested in the health and safety issues facing construction workers when they were working together as product designers and smart cities researchers on a project for the Royal College of Art.

During the course of that research they learned that in the construction industry today, companies small and large try to predict over-exposure based on what they know about the past conditions on, for example, this road or at that site.

They also send people to do very precise and accurate monitoring once in a while, but the on-person apparatus used by these inspectors is expensive, and the processes they use are time-consuming.

SmartSite aims to monitor construction sites accurately every day, in a way that doesn’t interrupt the regular work flow on construction sites, and doesn’t require workers to wear or carry additional gear.

Ultimately, Andrea said, “People want to do the right thing for their workers. But there is also a cost associated with time lost to illness, and possible lawsuits.”

The startup is running pilot tests with construction industry businesses it did not have permission to name.

SmartSite is part of Y Combinator’s current batch of startups and has raised some funding through that accelerator. But the cofounders declined to disclose other fundraising plans or exactly how much capital they have raised to-date.