PORTLAND, Ind.—Nighttime road works and highway improvements have increased in recent years, as many road construction companies have chosen to undertake improvements at times when traffic volumes are lower. But although overnight road construction provides clear benefits for those using the road network, minimizing disruption and reducing diversions for commuters, the poor visibility and worker fatigue that are associated with it create serious implications for construction workers’ safety.
Construction is a hazardous occupation, and road construction is ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Research has shown that 55 percent of incidents occur within the work zone itself, and the majority of worker deaths and injuries involve a moving vehicle, according to a release from Brigade Electronics, Inc.
Blind spots on vehicles are a major contributing factor to collisions and are often the main reason construction workers are killed or injured. Poor visibility, due to working overnight, dusty worksites, and difficult weather conditions, exacerbates this issue. Meanwhile, construction workers who are required to wear hearing protection cannot always hear a vehicle approaching.
Vehicle safety systems are helping to address this issue. Passive systems, such as mirrors and cameras, help a driver to spot objects in a vehicle’s blind spot. Active systems, including operator alerts and back-up alarms, ensure that drivers receive an immediate warning that an object is present, and that pedestrians are aware instantly that a vehicle is nearby.
Corey Heniser of Brigade Electronics Inc. (https://brigade-electronics.com/), a global manufacturer of vehicle safety systems, explained the importance of active systems for nighttime working.
“Work sites present a number of challenges when it comes to visibility. Not only are they dusty and dirty places to be, but when this is combined with nighttime hours or difficult weather conditions, it can become increasingly dangerous for construction workers to be spotted by those operating moving vehicles,” Heniser said in the release. “Active safety systems are therefore crucial to assisting drivers and enhancing safety for workers operating in these conditions. This is why we always recommend that a combination of both passive and active systems, such as cameras and alarms, are fitted to vehicles for the ultimate safety solution.”
These systems include Brigade’s Backeye®360, which provides the driver with a complete surround view of the vehicle in real time in a single image. The system combines images from ultra-wide-angle cameras, resulting in a “bird’s-eye view” of the vehicle and surrounding area in real time. As a result, drivers can clearly see people and objects as they maneuver their vehicles.
Active technology, including Backsense® radar obstacle detection, can detect stationary and moving objects in harsh environments, including darkness, giving the driver an audible and visible warning when objects are within a certain distance. Heavy-duty radar systems that are waterproof and smoke resistant can operate in high or low temperatures and can easily be heard in noisy environments, making them ideal for construction sites.
One construction company that has benefited from installing safety technology on its vehicles is UK-based business Day Aggregates. It fitted Brigade’s Backsense® heavy-duty radar sensor system onto its fleet of shovel loaders, telehandlers, and trucks.
In the last few years of recording incidents, which are split by “damage” and “near miss,” the company has reported that this technology has been key to reducing incidents and improving safety.
“It [the radar] is an extra back up when looking in numerous mirrors and using reversing aids,” said operator Darren Harfield, in the release. “If you’re distracted, for example, because someone suddenly asks you a question on the radio, it can be trying to take in too much at one time. The radar system prevents this. There’s an in-cab display that presents different colors and beeps when anything comes within a certain distance of the vehicle, so it’s not just visual prompts, but audible alerts, too.”