How Digital Photos and Videos Help Improve Safety Workflows for Construction with Rob McKinney, The ConApp Guru

May 1, 2023

There is an old phrase, which we’ve all heard before, that says, "A picture is worth a thousand words.”  This statement is very accurate in regard to construction safety documentation workflows.

It could take multiple sentences, more often paragraphs of written descriptions, to convey the nature and severity of a hazard that could be captured in a photo or video of a construction project site. That is the beauty of taking a simple photo because a photo can convey so many things instantly, without words and without speaking. What does a video capture do if photos are great, powerful, and worth a thousand words? Now you can capture safety concerns with video and audio that could be worth a million words and save even more lives.

What if construction safety professionals saved a ton of time and improved safety documentation by submitting photos and videos with voice-to-text comments? Documentation would be accomplished much faster by submitting photos and videos with voice-to-text comments. These photos and videos could be categorized in simple terms of safe or unsafe. They could also be tagged by type of safety issue, date, and location stamped.

What if Contractor Safety Directors documented their safety inspections more visually than in writing, as in taking photos or videos of the good, the bad, and the ugly on a construction project site?

What if contractors use the photos to first document a hazard, second to share the hazard issue with crews, third the correction of the hazard, and then fourth and finally used the photos and their training for the prevention and reoccurrence of the hazard?  

Some safety professionals have started migrating from paper-based to digital base documentation to create records about their and their team's inspections.

For example, you could look at a scaffold that has not been put together correctly per the OSHA standard and realize that it might be missing the base plate that should be attached to the mud sill. The X brace may not be properly connected to the frame. It might even be tied, wired, or duct taped to keep it in place, which is never good.

One of the common safety management phrases people follow is, “If you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it.” So let’s assume, for argument's sake, that a safety professional or Superintendent finds an unsafe scaffold. Then stop the work on the scaffold, get the missing parts addressed, conduct a new inspection, and can only then return to work. How much time and money does that cost the project? But more importantly, how likely is it to save a life?

What is the most effective form of documentation in this scenario?

Use paper inspection forms?

Use a digital inspection form?

Use a mobile app to take photos and videos of the hazard and then the corrective action to prove the issue had been identified and corrected.

Is 2023 the time to move away from the status quo of written documentation and truly lean into digital photographic documentation? The answer is an obvious yes, and the transition can’t happen soon enough. There is too much at risk every day on a job site to not better capture, address, eliminate safety concerns, and have more powerful ways to educate and train on safety culture.

There is also a phrase that goes. The proof is in the pudding. Perhaps the proof is in the photo and video documentaion. Or, the proof is in Pixly!

-Rob McKinney, The ConApp Guru