Machine safety within the construction industry – the increasing requirement for smart and compliant solutions

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Rigorous health and safety regulations present an opportunity for real innovation within the machine safety and guidance product arena. The Construction Equipment Association talks to CEA member company James Fisher Prolec’s General Manager, Nigel Shaw about the changing face of safety in the construction equipment sector.

Current risks posed within the construction industry

Many construction workers are killed or seriously injured in construction accidents every year, with more than one in five work related deaths being attributed to the construction industry*. Clearly, construction sites continue to represent a significant safety concern, especially with heavy plant machinery constantly moving across sites. Without correct measures in place, pedestrians on-site may be struck or trapped by machinery, leading to serious injury of workers and, consequently, non-productive time on-site.

Combined with these very real concerns, increasingly stringent health and safety regulations are regularly being introduced and enforced, meaning health and safety managers have a responsibility to ensure any construction equipment is compliant to relevant standards.

As a result, the industry is experiencing an increasing investment into machine guidance and control solutions; products that enable operators to work more safely and efficiently, protecting the people who work within the industry and mitigating the risks associated with construction work.

 The growing need for smart and compliant safety solutions

Machine guidance and machine safety solutions allow operators to physically limit a machine from approaching pre-defined areas, ensuring the machine remains safe during operations at all times. By limiting the working envelope of a machine, hazards can be avoided, and people can be kept safe.

Height, slew and reach limiting solutions all provide the ability to work more safely in a given situation but the industry is witnessing a growing  requirement for safety solutions which can offer more than ‘simple’ limiting, as projects require highly configurable solutions which offer many benefits to the user, from simple angular slew to more complex “virtual wall” control and incorporating supervisor control on setting limits or failsafe options.

Advancing machine safety: innovation in practice

While the current industry-leading machine envelope control system is proven to increase safety and efficiency by allowing operators to set height, reach and slew limitations, these limitations are set for a static machine. The future of machine safety is in systems which keep a machine protected, wherever it moves and operates.

James Fisher Prolec has developed its innovative PMX solution, which utilises GPS and total station theodolite (TST) technology to automatically update limit settings based on position, as a direct response to this requirement. Now, the location of hazards can be identified and the machine’s location and proximity to them can be continuously monitored, while simultaneously calculating the necessary movement restriction based on the geometry of the machine to create a safe working envelope, which is automatically re-established relative to its moving location.

Nigel Shaw commented, “Truly innovative technology within the industry is moving away from simple limitation and has developed into a sophisticated suite of products which can significantly improve safety and efficiency by automatically setting height, reach and slew limits with minimal operator involvement, eliminating the risk of human error and addressing the industry demand for more intelligent control.”

The future of machine safety

Nigel added, “Machine safety within the construction industry has, in some ways, been stunted by a lack of investment into the technology, despite the clear benefits delivered in terms of efficiency and safety. There is an opportunity to better protect people and to eliminate risks which is why companies like James Fisher Prolec, who are able to invest heavily into research and development, will be instrumental in driving this future.”

“The future of machine safety exists in automation, virtualisation and remote control; allowing machinery to be operated and projects to be completed without bringing people into dangerous environments. Advanced machine monitoring and big data analytics will ensure assets are protected at all times and construction sites are run in the safest and most efficient way possible. PMX from James Fisher Prolec represents the first advancement towards this future.” Concluded Nigel

*https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/construction-fatalities-2016/17-full-breakdown/10021410.article

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