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Comprehensive Safety Programs Combine Training and Technology


Worksite and worker safety impacts every part of every operation. Your organization’s approach to safety directly impacts your reputation and culture, your ability to recruit and retain workers, and relationships with your customers and community. Safety has value.

Implementing technology to streamline processes, automate routine tasks and track operational metrics improves safety as well as productivity. Safety is the priority – it’s paramount – but often, the technology solutions that help improve safety also have a positive impact on worker productivity. In this new era, data drives improvements in both categories.

A renewed focus by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on powered haulage accidents across all types of mining, including aggregates, has highlighted worker safety around heavy vehicles. Fatal accidents are at record lows (2018 saw the second-lowest on record) due to a variety of factors, but many serious accidents involve powered haulage, including loaders and heavy vehicles.

MSHA issued a Request For Information (RFI) last year seeking details on existing technologies that can improve safety. MSHA also updated citation penalties, up to $76,620 based on company size, prior violations, negligence, and gravity, and flagrant violation fines of $266,275 in the United States alone. There’s work to be done before technology can prevent any and all accidents, but technology is available today to help improve site and personnel safety.

MSHA investigations found contributing factors in many of the 61 fatalities involving moving equipment. Those include inadequate use or lack of seat belts, larger vehicles striking smaller vehicles, and operator difficulty in detecting highwall edges or dump points. Fatalities also occurred when equipment operators stepped out of vehicles and were struck by moving equipment. Some of the biggest safety initiatives around trucks and loaders focus on safe driving and best operating practices.

Fortunately, some of the most innovative technology in the industry today plays an important role in improving jobsite safety. Careful analysis of the data provided by those technology solutions, combined with employee training and safety-first processes and procedures can go a long way toward improving safety outcomes.

Human Factors

The biggest ongoing safety risk is human error, and it can be the hardest to manage. The best investment an operation can make is in training, and in making procedural changes in line with what we know about human nature. The reflex is often to blame operator error when it can be more productive to examine system design shortcomings. Systemic changes can remove the opportunity to be unsafe, while retraining can often prove challenging given habits, reflexes, forgetfulness, and other human foibles.

An easy place to start is the implementation of technology, training and procedures that reduce the need for drivers to exit their vehicles. For example, LOADRITE 360 an automated quarry loadout system, can eliminate the need for truck drivers to get out and talk to loader operators about what product they need and how much because a job ticket is automatically sent to the loader operator screen. Automating communications from the weighbridge means the loader operator knows what each truck needs before it gets there.

Data Drives Safety

Accurate data can improve every aspect of your operation today, and safety is no exception. Detailed recording and careful analysis of incident data provides the basis to implement new safety solutions and maintain a culture of safety. By sharing data with the team, it creates transparency between managers and operators to open opportunities for continued employee training.

Fleet management technology makes it easier than ever to log usage data with auto-status tracking with no interaction from the operator on haul trucks, ready-mixed trucks and on-highway trucks. That data can reveal trends, inefficiencies and opportunities for improvements that impact safety and profitability. It can also reveal shortcomings, risk,and liabilities for operations that don’t adhere to regulations and industry best practices for a course correction before the problem escalates.

New haul-monitor technology and communications allow fleet managers to improve safety throughout the mass haul process. Technology removes the burden of manually counting and recording haul truck cycles, ensures accurate loading, monitors speeding, reports production, breaks down cycle time analysis and tracks material movement. Improving safety at the quarry or construction site can also help solve bigger problems, such as an overloaded truck, going too fast, or operating in hazardous conditions that create a higher risk of a collision or incident.

Real-time alerts are invaluable for operators to receive timely reminders to slow down, or perhaps communicate a change in delivery instructions. Providing real-time information prevents navigation bottlenecks during road closures or construction that may cause delays in material deliveries.

Systems that gather, record and analyze multiple data points and streams for bulk materials and ready-mix trucks protect drivers and reduce risk. Reports and dashboards on driver behavior help managers and drivers improve safety across the fleet. Video systems that are activated by specific event triggers, such as hard braking, speeding or load angle, can be paired with real-time information, including vehicle speed, GPS location, and more. With research showing that 80% of on-road accidents are not the fault of the truck driver, a complete view of every incident helps protect your drivers and your bottom line.

Technology Drives Safety – and Reduces Risk

Technology can enable significant worksite safety improvements. Whether on- or off-highway, distracted heavy equipment operators present a hazard to themselves and others. However, technology can be a powerful tool to monitor drivers and ensure safe equipment operation and improve site-wide safety.

The best technology solutions are the easiest to use and the most effective. New tools like quarry loadout management systems, dashcam video systems, and haul fleet monitoring help ensure compliance with best safety practices and keep everyone safe.

Kevin Vonesh is strategic accounts manager, Trimble Construction Logistics/Aggregates.