System identifies workers in equipment's path

0 548 OH&S

by Richard Gilbert

Employers of heavy equipment operators in Alberta and Ontario are interested in technology that allows workers to know when someone is behind their vehicle while backing up.
System identifies workers in equipment's path

Employers of heavy equipment operators in Alberta and Ontario are interested in technology that allows workers to know when someone is behind their vehicle while backing up.

“We only went to market with the device about one and a half years ago, so most of our clients are starting to come on board right now,” said Jonathan Fava, president of Scan-Link Technologies Inc., based in Ancaster, Ontario.

“In Fort McMurray, everyone is just getting started with the technology and the guys with the City of Edmonton really like it. Unfortunately, we have a backlog on our system. We can’t supply our clients as quickly as we wanted because we didn’t anticipate there would be so much demand for the system.”

Scan-Link Technologies Inc. is the manufacturer of the Armour System.

The safety system uses a radio frequency identification system (RFID) to identify workers at risk of being struck by heavy machinery on construction sites.

A series of antennas are mounted around the periphery of the vehicle to detect construction safety apparel such as a vest and a hard hat with strategically positioned RFID tags.

A control unit detects the specially equipped hard hats and vests worn by workers on the ground.

An alarm sounds in the machine when a worker wearing the sensor is nearby, giving the operator time to assess the situation.

“I have been lobbying through my position on the Provincial Labour Management Health and Safety Committee to support our efforts to do a pilot study with testing and trials,” said Jim LaFontaine, committee co-chair, who was appointed by the Ontario Road Builders Association.

“We never want to see a fatality and we think we can do it because the technology is there.

“I am trying to rally government support for the pilot.”

LaFontaine is concerned about the number of occupational fatalities which occur in Ontario when a construction worker is crushed or struck by heavy equipment.

Sixty people died in Ontario after being struck by construction equipment and vehicles between 1990 and 2008.

This represents the second largest cause of death in the construction industry during this period after falls.

The Provincial Labour Management Health and Safety Committee was established to advise the Minister of Labour on matters of health and safety in the construction industry.

“My goal is to see a pilot study by the Ministry of Labour funded and have heavy civil contractors participate in testing of the radio frequency identification systems such as Scan-Link; and of course to see awareness training be provided to all, which will include site specific controls to eliminate the dangers of workers being injured or killed by reversing machines, equipment and vehicles,” said LaFontaine.

The monitoring system allows the worker to warn the machine instead of the machine warning the worker.

As a result, more responsibility is put on the driver than just a warning beeper and a traffic control person in a vest behind a piece of heavy equipment.

“Most of Scan-Links business in the oilsands is with two large general contractors, Fava said.

“We went to Fort McMurray two months ago and finally realized the industry needed a product to detect people not equipment. When we approached these clients and said it could identify a person and not an object, they knew this was the next generation of safety products.”

The City of Edmonton has installed the safety device in all its heavy equipment involved in aggregate recycling.

The city reported two near-misses in 2012 that this technology may have prevented.

According to Alberta Human Resources, there were eight fatalities in the province that involved equipment backing up and colliding with people in the last two years.

Fava said a new system will be out in September that will collect data, in order to identify near misses and opportunities to re-train workers.

“We came up with the idea about four years ago and developed a prototype, which we took to the Ontario Road Builders Association,” he said.

“We got feedback from the industry and they said there was a demand for a product like this.”

LaFontaine, who is also the OH&S manager with Dufferin Construction Company, a division of Holcim (Canada) Inc., has been involved with Scan-Link for several years.

Dufferin was Scan-Link’s first client and helped test a prototype before the product was taken to market.

As a result, the system won the President’s Award for occupational health and safety from Holcim Canada.

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