The utility industry is a major contributor to the US economy with the electric sector alone providing 5% of GDP and supporting 7 million jobs. One of the biggest issues affecting the sector is the number of workplace injuries and fatalities caused by incidents on worksites. Corey Heniser – a safety expert at Brigade Electronics INC – discusses the vehicle safety equipment helping to prevent deaths and serious harm.

The electric power industry provides nearly 2.7 million jobs nationwide through employees, contractors, supply chain and investments and is relied upon by millions.

Maintenance operations are critical to keeping this major driver of the economy running so protecting workforces from serious injury or death is a top priority.

Research by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has revealed that one of the four leading causes of fatalities to workers in the utilities industry is being struck by an object. Eliminating this hazard would help to save numerous workers’ lives across America.

Workers in the utility industry are at risk in several areas when operating vehicles or heavy equipment. These include:

  • Collisions due to rear, front and side blind spots
  • Collisions due to poor visibility, such as harsh weather conditions, and working at night
  • Site workers being struck by vehicles and mobile machines
  • Hearing protection reducing site workers’ ability to hear clearly approaching vehicles
  • Old-fashioned tonal back-up alarms being ignored or not heard by site workers

In such a high-risk industry, organizations are increasingly choosing to invest in enhanced safety systems to protect their workers and keep their reputations intact.

Technology Innovations

On worksites, the need for safety is paramount, particularly as the slightest mistake can have devastating consequences. The latest innovations in technology mean many of these incidents can be prevented.

A range of safety systems is available to assist in keeping workers safe. On-board camera systems can help alert drivers to possible dangers, while back-upand warning alarms alert workers when a vehicle is maneuvering near them.

Unlike old-fashioned tonal alarms, Brigade’s bbs-tek® White Sound® back-up alarm creates a ‘ssh-ssh’ sound, which dissipates quickly. This means it can only be heard in the danger zone, so there is more chance of workers paying attention. The broadband frequency also gives workers wearing hearing protection a better chance of hearing the alarm.

Sensing Risk

Blind spots on large worksite vehicles and machinery can be particularly deadly. The front, rear and nearside are problematic areas of vehicles, particularly those with elevated driver positions. Harsh construction site terrains, where thick dust and mud often decrease visibility even more, further increase the risk of collisions.

Brigade’s Backsense® Radar Obstacle Detection alerts drivers to potential risks. It works by emitting a frequency modulated continuous-wave radar that is faster than pulsed-radar products. Some detection systems can produce false alerts, which can lead to frustration for drivers, resulting in genuine alerts being disregarded. Continuous-wave radar protects against false alerts, thanks to the controlled beam pattern, which can be programmed, allowing organizations to fix a custom detection area specifically suited to their needs. When a moving or stationary object is detected, the driver is alerted via an in-cab visual display and an audible warning.

While it may not be possible to eliminate every element of risk when maneuvering heavy equipment and machinery, radar obstacle detection is a step forward in protecting the lives of vehicle operators and those who work around them.

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