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Building safely and keeping jobsites open during COVID-19

I recently recorded a webinar with two executives from Warfel — VP of Operations Conlan Swope and Senior Director of IT Phil Weaver — to discuss how they approach safety during the pandemic and, specifically, how they’re using Newmetrix (formerly Smartvid.io) to reduce the risk of transmission on their jobsites.

Warfel has been a top-tier general contractor for more than a century, specializing in senior care, healthcare and education. With more than $225 million in annual revenues and more than 175 employees, Warfel is a big player in the Mid-Atlantic region, recently being selected as Mid-Atlantic Contractor of the Year by ENR.

But before we look at how Warfel used Newmetrix to keep its jobsites open during the pandemic, let’s talk a little bit about their construction IT stack. In 2018, Warfel replaced five separate and disjointed applications with Procore, which it now uses for construction management. It also uses StructionSite to automate the process of taking 360-degree photos of jobsites for documentation.

A late afternoon question from the company president

Warfel started the process of looking for a solution like Newmetrix late on a Friday afternoon in 2019. Matthew Hartzler, Warfel’s president, had been looking through photos that had been uploaded into Procore when he saw a retaining wall that concerned him. He contacted VP of Operations, Conlan Swope to let him know about the hazard, but he also wanted to know if there was a way to automate the inspection of all these photos to identify safety risks. That, of course, is exactly what Newmetrix does.

Newmetrix’s Safety Monitoring module integrates effortlessly with Procore and StructionSite, and it leverages our AI engine, “Vinnie,” to analyze photos to identify common safety hazards such as “person at height” and “slip, trip and fall hazard”, but it also finds hazards related to COVID-19. Specifically, Vinnie identifies “people in group” (people standing less than six feet apart or congregating in groups of 10 or more), “no face mask” and “no gloves.”

The data Vinnie produces is then aggregated and, in Warfel’s case, imported into Microsoft Power BI, where managers and executives can see trends and compare how each site is performing against benchmarks.

Vinnie identifies worker without face maskVinnie detects when workers are not wearing face masks with the new "No face mask" tag.

Keeping jobsites open thanks to Vinnie

To keep its jobsites open, Warfel had to present county authorities with its COVID-19 safety procedures and demonstrate that workers were complying. But Warfel doesn’t use Newmetrix to nail individuals. It isn’t meant to be used that way — in fact, we don’t include facial recognition technology in our platform and we never will.

“If you’re looking for a resource to police or slap hands, Newmetrix isn’t your tool,” Swope said during the webinar. ”We use it as a continuous improvement process to find out the underlying causes for high safety risk. What caused certain subs to be bigger risks? What made some so safe? We want to help subcontractors who are struggling.”

Concerning COVID-19, specifically, Warfel not only had to present county authorities in Pennsylvania with its COVID-19 safety procedures, but it also had to demonstrate that workers were complying. Newmetrix made this easy to do, and, even better, Warfel is able to monitor compliance on every jobsite without adding any additional personnel on-site to observe, which would increase both costs and viral transmission risk.

Of course, Newmetrix isn’t just helping Warfel lower its COVID-19 risk. Warfel has been able to identify sites that were at high risk, investigate to determine the best way to reduce it and move subcontractors that were in the high-risk category to medium-risk in just a couple of months.

According to Conlan Swope, the benefits were obvious: “we saw multiple of our highest risk subcontractors move into the medium-risk category over the last two months. That’s a big big change that makes a big difference.”

If you’d like to learn more, Conlan, Phil, and I go into much more detail about the implementation and how Warfel is benefiting from Newmetrix in this on-demand webinar or read the case study.

Want to learn more about how Newmetrix can help your organization reduce COVID-19 and other safety risks on your jobsites? Get in touch.

Written by Josh Kanner

Josh Kanner has been involved in enterprise-focused software startups since 2000 with a focus in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry since 2005.

Most recently he was co-founder of Vela Systems, a pioneer in the use of web and tablet workflows for construction and capital projects. There he led the company’s product, marketing, and business development functions. Vela Systems grew from bootstrapped beginnings to include over 50% of the ENR Top Contractors as customers and deployments all over the globe. The company was successfully acquired by Autodesk in 2012 and has been rebranded as BIM 360 Field.

Prior to founding Vela Systems, Josh was responsible for product management and strategy at Emptoris (now part of IBM), a web-based strategic sourcing software company with customers including Motorola, GlaxoSmithKline, Bank of America, and American Express.

Kanner graduated from Brown University and earned an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He still gets excited to put on a hard hat and walk a job.

View more posts by Josh Kanner.

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