Wearable technology for safe and connected highway work zones

Did you know approximately one work zone fatality occurs every 10 hours, and 24,745 individuals (about 750 per year) lost their lives in work zone crashes between 1982 and 2014? Virginia Tech in collaboration with VTTI and sponsorship with USDOT, is working on an innovative solution to this growing epidemic. Dr. Nazila Roofigari-Esfahan is an assistant professor in the Department of Building Construction, Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech with much of her education and research pursuits being geared toward automating building and highway construction processes. Her research is focused on the development of smart personal protective equipment, in particular, the safety vest. The alpha version of this vest utilizes sensors to detect and warn the worker of an imminent threat.

Additional research is underway related to the development of a mobile app that can warn a driver as they approach an active construction work zone. Dr. Roofigari-Esfahan is seeking feedback on several specific elements of the wearable devices, such as the types of warnings (vibratory, visual and, or audio), where to place the sensors on the worker, etc.

Questionnaire Survey: Factors affecting highway workers’ situation awareness

Dr. Roofigari is also in the early stages of development for an asphalt construction-specific vest that would include real-time monitoring for silica exposure and hazardous gases. These could then be utilized to warn workers and managers when a specific threshold is exceeded. Additional research is underway related to the development of a mobile app that can warn a driver as they approach an active construction work zone. Thanks to Dr. Roofigari’s work, these innovations will continue to help make our construction zones safer.

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