Nearly half (46 percent) of all construction workers fear safety could be put at risk when artificial intelligence (AI) and robots become common on job sites, while three in 10 actually think the move toward automation will make construction safer, according to a new survey from Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE).
Interestingly, workplace safety tops job security as the number one concern of respondents – with 46 percent concerned about the increased risk to site safety compared to 31 percent worried they will lose their jobs to robots. Other concerns include loss of sociability (26 percent) and not knowing who to blame if something goes wrong (17 percent).
However it’s not all doom and gloom – 54 percent think autonomous machines and AI will boost productivity, while 48 percent think advanced technology will increase the speed of every day construction tasks.
Unsurprisingly, younger workers are more receptive to 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 over.
Which jobs feel more at risk?
The machine operator is perceived to be most at risk – three in five machine operators believe their job could become completely redundant following the rise in computer technology. Engineers are considered the second job role most at risk (21 percent), followed by bricklayers (17 percent) and construction managers (16 percent). Only one in five construction workers believe no jobs will be affected at all.
Other key findings:
- 58 percent of construction workers are confident that AI would not do a better job than them
- 55 percent agree that they would rather lose their job to a human than a machine
- 72 percent of US respondents agree that they would consider choosing a job that will not be affected by autonomous machinery or AI, compared to 45 percent of UK respondents
Volvo Group Automation Specialist Christian Grante said nurturing innovation was the key to surviving, and thriving, in the coming age of automation.
“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.”