Advances in wearable technologies can improve the safety of construction workers avoiding collisions with heavy plant or machinery.
Strikes by a moving vehicle rank among the top four fatal injuries within the construction industry, despite the danger being widely recognised and significant efforts applied to physically segregate workers as much as possible.
Efforts to address this danger involving technology have existed for decades including within harsh operating environments. In mining, for example, proximity detection technology was tested as early as the 1990s.
So why, does there continue to be fatalities caused by collisions with machinery or equipment?
One reason could be that the earliest versions of technology deployed lacked adequate reliability or that they were not deployed with an intention to prevent harm by informing safer ways of working. Even though proximity detection technology has been around for some time, it wasn’t until relatively recently that it was resilient or flexible enough to be effectively used in construction or heavy industry work environments. People-plant interface is complex, and monitoring these interactions requires an advanced approach, capable of fast effective detection and – more importantly – intelligent analysis of these dangerous interactions.
While it’s not possible to confirm how many injuries occur as a direct result of misjudging physical distance, it’s not unreasonable to assume the significant impact of spatial awareness.
Our lack of ability to reliably, or consistently, estimate physical distance is one of many reasons why effective segregation from hazards can be challenging. Many incidents continue to occur as construction workers routinely operate within close proximity to active equipment, without a clear sense of emerging risks in the operating environment. This is particularly problematic when it comes to a lack of adequate segregation between workers and moving vehicles, whether that be forklifts, excavators, cranes or trucks.
Faced with these challenges, should construction companies and contractors implement proximity warning systems?
Advances in proximity detection technology allow exclusion zones around heavy equipment, or geofenced areas on a construction site to be readily created. The technology establishes a safe distance around hazards, and coupled with wearable devices, construction workers can be alerted when they enter the exclusion zone in real-time.
While real-time alerts are critical for detecting proximity hazards, it isn’t enough to keep workers safe on its own.
Connected worker technology leverages analytical software to make sense of data recorded from wearable devices, to monitor safety and enhance productivity.
Analysing information from wearable devices provide an in-depth data insight into health risks that would otherwise remain undetected until it’s too late. In addition to proximity detection, advances in wearable devices enable construction workers to be notified when they are at risk from over exposure to dust, noise, or vibration levels while operating power tools.
Understanding site safety behaviours and identifying emerging trends empowers construction companies to establish more effective risk controls for the future.
Workplace risk prevention experts, Reactec, have developed a new approach to tackle the most prevalent health and safety issues within the construction industry. Reactec use a powerful combination of workplace wearable devices and cloud-based analytics to form an ecosystem which empowers employers to create safer work environments.
With over 20 years of experience in developing robust workplace wearables to prevent Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), Reactec’s latest generation wearable is the most powerful yet integrating the most advanced technologies to support the monitoring of several workplace health and safety risks simultaneously.
Launched mid 2022, Reactec’s third generation workplace wearable, is branded R-Link®. The R-Link smart watch builds upon Reactec’s trusted HAVS prevention capability to feature detection of proximity to hazards, operation within exclusion zones and employee messaging to name a few.
With over 100,000 workers protected from over exposure to HAV using Reactec’s first and second generation devices, Reactec wanted to ensure their next generation offering had even greater utility to the workers protected by the technology.
R-Link’s advanced proximity detection functionality utilises the latest ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to quickly and accurately detect when construction workers are too close to active vehicles or machinery.
A network of hardware devices transmit data to ensure that workers are alerted immediately when they get too close to active vehicles. Haptic alerts notify the R-Link wearer when they are within range of Reactec Beacons, which are mounted on vehicles or site restricted areas to establish an exclusion zone.
R-Link is highly configurable to cater for circumstances where workers need to approach a vehicle, to perform banksman activities for instance, or to allow a driver to give an electronic thumbs up to permitted close working. Safe zones can also be established where physical barriers are in place to provide protection while workers operate in and around vehicles.
R-Link technology is advanced, but the device has been designed to specifically withstand the rigours of construction sites, while providing the wearer with an intuitive user-experience, like their own mobile phone or smart watch.The familiarity ensures that R-Link is simple to use which supports widespread adoption across construction sites to record and interpret data on worksite behaviour using Reactec Analytics®.
Reactec Analytics is a cloud-based software solution that provides a critical layer of information into worksite safety culture and activities. By understanding proximity hazards, including when and where near-misses occur, patterns and anomalies can be identified in the data. The analytical software provides near-miss reports, by incursion time and severity type, including interactive heatmaps to identify potential hotspots for collisions.
With Reactec Analytics, construction companies and contractors can make more informed decisions using data to affect workforce behavioural change, while challenging the robustness of their own risk assessments.
Reactec will release remote firmware upgrades to offer the R-Link wearer even more protection from workplace health risks in the near future, including an ability to collate risk data from other IoT enabled sensors such as noise and dust. Two-way communication for evacuation and mustering, including regular check-in functionality and panic mode for lone workers, will connect workforces in a safer and more meaningful way than ever before.
For more information about proximity detection technology and how our third-generation wearable, R-Link, can protect your workforce, visit: www.reactec.com or contact a member of the team via: [email protected]