Innovation and technology are driving changes to how people and plant interact daily. Christopher Clark, SHE Advisor at Morgan Sindall Group, looks at how the vehicle recycling industry can reduce the number of our people being struck by vehicles at work.
Being struck by moving vehicles and equipment is a very obvious risk in our industry and is a constant worry for management and worker alike. The rate of fatal injuries to workers in the waste and recycling industry remain markedly higher, on average 17 times higher than across all other industries. Being struck by moving vehicles accounted for 25 fatal injuries to workers in 2020/21, representing 18% of the total number of deaths over the year in all industries.
Historically, control measures associated with people and plant interactions have relied on preventative measures from the bottom of the hierarchy of control.
“Where is your hi-vis?” and “If you stay away from the machine, it won’t hurt you” were common instructions frequently employed on sites across the UK., However, is not good enough for our people; a risk that regularly results in fatal or life-changing incidents.
The focus needs to move towards innovation through new technologies to help eliminate and reduce the risk of being struck by a moving vehicle. Some fantastic technologies are now leading the way in the construction and manufacturing industries.
Eliminating reversing is essential on every site. Utilising dual-view technology is one way that the construction industry has innovated. A dual view vehicle allows the driver to drive up to the load point and then turn the seat in the cab and drive away.
This, coupled with a Traffic Management Plan that ensures the yard and compounds are set up in such a way that vehicles transit the site in a single direction, ensures even greater control of vehicles and plant movements, and can significantly reduce the likelihood of incidents.
Physical segregation of plant and people is absolutely essential and can completely eliminate the risk of being struck by a vehicle. Where possible, we should utilise an “in or out” principle where only those that need to be in the hazard area enter it for the shortest time required. When they are in, we maintain contact through radios and hand signals. When they are out, they are away from the dangers of moving machinery.
When we can’t have physical segregation in place, we need our people to understand the danger zones that are associated with plant and machinery. Halo Safety Devices allow workers to clearly identify exclusion zones. Once the light is installed around the vehicle, focused light beams will identify an exclusion zone, making the worker aware not to enter the danger zone.
These systems can be linked to artificial intelligence (AI) collision-avoidance technology, which can include cameras that detect pedestrians 1 metre from the sides and 3 metres from the rear and will sound alarms inside and outside the vehicle when triggered. These systems can be linked to sensors that immediately idle the machinery if the sensors are tripped by someone entering the danger zones.
New machinery is being installed with High-Definition CCTV systems that can help eliminate blind spots on plant and machinery and has been a site standard in the construction industry for the past ten years. They can be a useful aid for precise positioning of the vehicle, removing the need for signallers in many cases, and can significantly reduce the number of reversing incidents. Simply updating your vehicle CCTV system to an HD version with collision avoidance technology can significantly help the operator identify when people are in their high-risk working zones.
The majority of these control measures focus on new technologies that can be installed on equipment and machinery; however, they should not be used individually, and we should have in place layers of protection as part of an overall risk management policy for the management of people plant interface, and this includes doing the basics correctly every day.
Ensuring a harmonised approach to PPE will help enhance both the safety and wellbeing of our people. Poorly fitted PPE can snag on control levers when entering and leaving equipment. If poorly maintained and left contaminated with oil and dirt, it may result in workers not being as visible as they can be, so a consistent approach to PPE standards is absolutely essential.
Site set-up needs to be constantly reviewed, and where we can provide physical segregation from plant and machinery, we should prioritise that over other control measures. When we identify people taking shortcuts across the yard or in a compound, we should focus on the potential for making this a protected route for our people rather than disciplinary action. If it can’t be an official route, then we should be focusing on educating our workforces as to why we are asking them to walk a specific route and the dangers of not doing so, hazards and risks can become normalised. It is essential that we re-focus the mind regularly to ensure we maintain a vigilant and consistent approach to working with machinery and vehicles. We want our workers to be empowered and report accidents and incidents so we can address the hazards and continue learning. The only way we can achieve this is by creating an environment of psychological safety where each individual feel empowered to report without fear of reprisal.
The management of vehicles and machinery needs a consistent approach. It is essential in the waste industry due to the size of equipment and materials that are moved on a daily basis. If we employ layers of protection by utilising new technologies in accordance with the hierarchy of control and educate our people about the hazards. In that case, we should reduce the likelihood of injuries and fatalities in the workplace.
Health and Safety Executive, HSE (2021). Waste statistics in Great Britain, 2021. Available at: www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/waste-recycling