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How to Improve Safety for Nighttime Road Work

August 20, 2020
A milling machine with crew works on a road at night
Nighttime road construction poses inherent safety issues.

Nighttime road work and highway improvements have increased in recent years, with many road construction companies now choosing to undertake improvements overnight.

While operating overnight provides clear benefits for those using the roads, minimizing disruption and reducing diversions for commuters, there are serious implications for construction workers’ safety due to poor visibility and worker fatigue.

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, with the majority of worker deaths and injuries involving a moving vehicle.

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, all exacerbate 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. While passive systems, such as mirrors and cameras, will help assist 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 pedestrians are aware instantly that a vehicle is nearby.

Corey Heniser, of vehicle safety system manufacturer Brigade Electronics, explains the importance of active systems for nighttime working.

“Work sites present a number of challenges when it comes to visibility,” Heniser says. “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.

“Active safety systems are therefore crucial to assisting drivers and enhancing safety for workers operating in these conditions,” Heniser says. “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 types of 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, meaning drivers can clearly see people and objects as they maneuver their vehicles.

Active technology like the Backsense radar obstacle detection can detect stationary and moving objects even in harsh environments, including in darkness, giving the driver an audible and visible warning when objects are within a certain distance. Heavy-duty radar systems, which are waterproof and smoke resistant, can even operate in high or low temperatures, and can easily be heard in noisy environments.

One construction company which has benefited from installing safety technology on its vehicles is U.K.-based business Day Aggregates. It fitted a 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,” says Day Aggregates operator Darren Harfield. “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.” 

Source: Brigade Electronics

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