Collision awareness and proximity detection technology originally developed for the mining industry is set to become standard on major civil projects to protect workers and increase transparency for project managers.
With limited space to manoeuvre and multiple heavy machines working in close proximity, roadside infrastructure projects can be a dangerous worksite.
To reduce the risk of collisions between plant, people and utility or other fixed assets, geospatial positioning equipment distributor Position Partners has introduced a range of proximity detection systems for civil construction applications by manufacturer Blue Electronics.
Although collision awareness technology was initially developed to increase safety in mining applications, Blue Electronics’ solutions come with enhanced features and failsafe measures to make them suitable for civil projects.
Harry Katsanevas, Position Partners Executive Manager, says civil projects pose unique challenges and have different requirements to mine sites.
“Whilst there is a lot the civil sector can learn from using this technology in mining, mine sites operate differently in that they often have a number of established processes around the movement of people and plant on site with zoning and other methods. This is not the case on many civil construction sites, which are fast-paced environments with equipment moving positions daily and numerous stakeholders and workers entering and leaving,” he explains.
Blue Electronics proximity detection devices are designed to warn operators and workers when they get too close to other machines or people on site. They can be fitted to heavy and light machinery including excavators, dozers, skid steers, graders, supervisor vehicles and so on, whilst workers on foot such as surveyors wear a Personal Proximity Device (PPD) on their clothing. Unlike mining systems that were traditionally cumbersome to install and complex to use, Blue Electronics devices can be installed on a machine in five minutes, making them a viable option for every machine on site.
Collision awareness systems are designed for machine-to-machine or machine-to-asset use – they can be configured as required and will warn operators of a potential collision. Collision avoidance, on the other hand, is the most advanced form of this technology, whereby machines can be automatically slowed or stopped by direct connection to the hydraulics. Blue Electronics systems have been used successfully in this way for rail applications on maintenance machinery.
Blue Electronics systems use GPS to accurately track the position of all devices on-site to within a metre, whilst Bluetooth is used as a failsafe measure in case of GPS dropouts. For increased accuracy, these units are SBAS-ready, or AllDayRTK can be added to deliver 25mm precision, which is useful for critical assets such as gas pipes and other utilities.
Mr Katsanevas says because the devices are able to collect accurate, real-time data on the position of machines and people, the risk of injury is drastically reduced.
“It means two machines are able to work blind in the same area and avoid any proximity issues,”
A virtual wall can also be implemented to provide additional protection for roadside construction. This is done by designating an area where a machine can operate and outlining the boundaries of the site.
This virtual wall along the edge of site alerts operators when leaving a safe working area. When the device detects a machine is about to pass through this invisible barrier, alerts will sound thereby reducing the risk of a potential collision with moving traffic or other assets.
The team at Position Partners found many larger construction companies were looking to get further clarity about what is happening on the job site to ensure workers are managed in the most economical and safest way possible.
The devices are also able to record GPS data and map the movements of workers, visitors and machinery on-site to help site managers keep track of the fast-paced environment.
Mr Katsanevas says a significant amount of research and development has gone into adapting the technology from the mining sector to fit civil construction.
“Australia is a fast adopter of new technology when compared with other countries, so we have to make sure the system is simple, reliable and easy to deploy in order to meet the stringent demands of our industry,” he says.
“A lot of testing and validation that has gone into this system and by testing them across different market sectors, we have found what works in the mining industry can work well in civil construction,”
Position Partners offers distribution of Blue Electronics solutions throughout Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, with numerous projects already utilising the technology to improve safety and transparency on site. The company provides support through dedicated centres for its technologies in most cities and has established support channels in regional areas.
To ensure maximum success with the technology, customers are offered comprehensive product training by Position Partners when taking delivery of their proximity detection systems, Mr Katsanevas says.
“Technology is being developed and advanced so quickly, but smart devices are still ineffective if managers and workers aren’t brought up to speed,” he explains.
“We have dedicated training and support campuses to teach businesses how to make the best use of the system, across all of our technologies and systems.”
In the future, Mr Katsanevas believes this technology will become an industry safety standard.
“These types of devices will be embedded in the machinery and systems of construction. You won’t be on a job site without these crucial control systems in place to help protect workers and equipment,” he says.
“In the end, we’re passionate about assisting our customers with the latest technological advancements that can improve safety and create world-class working environments across Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia.”