Achieving continual improvement in site safety
17 March 2015
Responsible site managers are using the most up-to-date technology to drive continual improvement in health and safety, writes Gary Escott, director of OnGrade.
With nearly a third of all workplace accidents taking place on building sites, the construction sector continues to be amongst the most dangerous places to work. Alongside regular health and safety briefings, it is important for managers to understand where the greatest risks lie, and to be able to address those risks through targeted training.
The close proximity of heavy plant and pedestrian workers poses a significant hazard and can lead to serious injuries and fatalities. This is a priority concern for everyone – pedestrians, drivers and managers alike.
In poor visibility conditions, standard PPE and even CCTV have proven fallible. The use of reversing beepers and other sound alarms also have limited efficacy, since workers are often wearing ear protectors and may not be aware of oncoming plant.
In essence, we need to make sure that both drivers and pedestrians know – without doubt – when they are in each others’ danger zones.
This is where radio frequency identification (RFID) comes in, giving all workers on site an extra level of control and - importantly - protection. Able to see around corners, through dust and smoke and in poor light conditions, RFID is earning its place in the construction safety toolkit.Don’t burst the bubble
Campaigns are available, such as OnGrade's Don't Burst the Bubble, working on the premise that each vehicle has a danger zone or ‘bubble’ around it, which for safety’s sake should not be breached.
Vehicles are fitted with RFID detectors, while pedestrians have RFID emitters fitted to their hard hat or sleeve. When a pedestrian enters the ‘bubble’ of a vehicle (which can be adjusted to suit each vehicle and site-specific conditions), both the pedestrian and driver receive a warning.
The RFID tag vibrates, making the pedestrian aware of the vehicle, while the driver is alerted by sound and flashing lights. This two-way alarm feature is fundamental to site safety, since responsibility for avoiding accidents is shared by both parties.
Powerday, for example, owns and operates the largest and most efficient recycling facility in southern England. Health and Safety manager Andre Rayson said: "Powerday are continuously looking for ways to improve the Health & Safety in all our yards. The need to segregate moving vehicles and plant from pedestrians or workers is essential but not always easy or in fact possible.
"SiteZone has recently provided Powerday with the answer, a workable method of making everyone aware of what’s going on around them and reducing the likelihood of any contact between a vehicle and person. It’s already proved to be very effective and clients and visitors to our yard have already introduced it to their workplaces.”Data logging for continual improvement
As well as acting as a real-time alert system, all activities are logged online, enabling site managers to identify any repeat offenders – those at most risk of injury from approaching vehicles without permission. Training can then be targeted where it will be most effective, and individual workers can be monitored to check safe working practices are being adopted. Furthermore, information across multiple sites can be compared and benchmarked. This gives managers the opportunity to identify hazard spots and best practice, and thereby drive continual improvement.
As the value of RFID technology is increasingly recognised, more and more construction companies are adding it to their health and safety toolkit. Those with the systems in place are able to ensure their construction sites run smoothly, while demonstrating to clients, investors and employees that safety is their number one priority.
By protecting and empowering workers to take control of their own safety, and helping managers better focus their time and resources, RFID systems are clearly worth the investment.