Safety tops job security as the number one concern in a recent
poll of construction workers carried out on behalf of Volvo Construction
Equipment (Volvo CE) – with 46% highlighting the increased risk to site safety
compared to the 31% anxious for their jobs.
The survey of 2,219 members of the public across the US and UK also
found that the loss of sociability (26%) and not knowing who to blame if
something goes wrong (17%) proceeds on their list of worries. Experts, however,
say automation is an opportunity not a threat, with the potential to actually
reduce the dangers on site.
Smarter machines can also be cause for optimism, the survey
reveals. Over half of respondents (54%) think autonomous machines and AI will
be a boost to productivity, while 48% believe advanced technology like this
will increase the speed of every day construction tasks. Interestingly, a small
number of those surveyed are divided on the topic of safety, with three in 10
workers confident that automation could actually make construction safer.
The younger you are the more benefits you’re likely to see in
autonomous technology. Respondents aged between 25 and 44 are more likely to
think autonomous machinery could be a benefit in areas such as productivity,
speed, safety, quality and fuel efficiency compared to those aged 44 and
When it comes to job fears, it is the machine operator that is
perceived to be most at risk – according to almost half of respondents (48%).
And those working in this job role agree, with three in five machine operators
believing their job could become completely redundant following the rise in
computer technology. Engineers are considered the second job role most at risk
(21%), followed by bricklayers (17%) and construction managers (16%). Only one
in five construction workers believe no jobs will be affected at all.
From those who responded as part of the wider survey across all
industries, some 55% agree that they would rather lose their job to a human
than a machine. AI could even impact workers’ career choices with nearly three
quarters of US respondents (72%) agreeing in some capacity that they would
consider choosing a job that will not be affected by autonomous machinery or
AI, compared to over two in five UK respondents (45%).
But just how much of an impact will automation have on
construction jobs? With the majority of construction workers confident that AI
would not do a better job than them (58%), can these technologies ever live up
to tried and tested manpower?
Volvo CE believes nurturing innovation is the key to surviving –
and thriving – in the coming age of automation. Volvo Group Automation
Specialist Christian Grante highlighted Volvo CE’s Triple Zero vision of zero
emissions, zero accidents and zero unplanned stops as the key to maximising the
potential for automation. He says: “We believe our focus on technologies such
as automation is exactly what allows us to make the construction industry
safer. Our research into this area has shown that autonomous systems really can
improve safety and productivity for our customers. And with more machines
working in collaboration with humans, rather than being controlled by them,
this will only increase further.”