When considering the costs associated with running a worksite, companies are constantly trying to figure out efficiencies that lead to increased productivity and reduction of costs. When every dollar counts it is imperative that these decisions are constantly evaluated to ensure the profitability of each individual project. The raw costs of goods and labor associated with the project, and managing an efficient supply chain are typically the highest priority when managing a cost effect project. What is sometime overlooked are the potential cost reductions associated with investing in safety technology.
Much like an insurance policy, it takes something negative to happen before cost reductions can be measured; the potential cost savings that can be attributed to an investment in safety technology are only measurable when assessing the negative impact that a worksite accident might have on productivity and a company’s bottom line—vehicle downtime, potential site shutdown, legal ramifications, etc.
When making an investment in a piece of machinery, insuring the equipment for damage or loss is not an option, but a requirement. However, in most cases the addition of safety technologies is viewed as an option—despite the inevitability of an accident in the lifecycle of the vehicle.
So why is safety optional and not standard?
There are a number of reasons why this is the case. One reason is education on the safety technologies is not readily available. We are seeing the use of camera/monitors becoming more and more prevalent—in some cases standard—in many heavy duty industries. While this is a step in the right direction, a camera/monitor system is only part of the safety equation.
A camera/monitor system requires the operator to be looking at the monitor to identify a potential hazard. And as we know, when working in a busy worksite, it is not a realistic expectation that the operator be focused on their in-cab monitor at all times. Another limitation of camera/monitor systems is that in many, if not most cases, worksites are dirty places. It only takes a small amount of dirt, mud or dust to render the visual capabilities of the system useless. If the camera/monitor system is not supported by an active safety system, accidents will continue to occur and worksite costs will continue to rise.
What makes a safety system active?
An active safety system will alert the operator of an obstruction regardless of where there attention is directed. As discussed, many pieces of equipment come with camera/monitor systems as standard equipment. However, this technology requires the operator to be looking at the monitor in order to be alerted of a potential danger. A system that uses sensors, such as radar, is active since the sensor sends a signal to the cab and an audible alert lets the operator know that an object is in their blind zone—no matter where their attention is directed.
For the purpose of automotive uses, both laser and ultrasonic sensors has become commonplace. These are effective in passenger vehicles, but have serious limitations in heavy duty vehicle industries. Environmental factors such as dirt, mud, dust, rain, snow or ice can all render the effectiveness of the systems useless. Similarly, false alerts will occur due to vehicle vibration and shock.
With this in mind, it is extremely important to invest in in collision avoidance sensors that have been ruggedized to operate in the harsh environments faced on the work site. They need to be able to operate in all weather conditions, and should be able to withstand shock and vibration that will occur on construction equipment.
The adoption of the best possible active safety system will undoubtedly pay off over the lifecycle of the vehicle. A small investment considering the overall costs associated with purchasing a vehicle, and the avoidance of potential costs associated with vehicle accidents should make the decision to invest in a heavy duty safety system standard for your company. It is worth noting that no matter what system your company decides to invest in, no value can be placed on the importance of operator education. This is the key to ensuring the safest, most efficient and cost effective worksite possible.
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