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10 reasons wearable RFID proximity alarms change safety rules in workplace transport

10 reasons wearable RFID proximity alarms change safety rules in workplace transport

Gary Escott of OnGrade explains why RFID proximity alarms should be used on every busy site or depot where vehicles and pedestrians work side by side.

When talking about workplace transport, we refer to those activities involving vehicles in the workplace.  These working environments include depots, warehouses or construction sites and far too often people are getting injured due to collisions with vehicles. This is not to be confused with accidents on public highways; workplace transport incidents would only become relevant in this environment they are being used to load or unload adjacent to a site or workplace.

Thanks to the application of RFID technology, the risk of collision between vehicles and pedestrian workers can be significantly reduced.  Advanced RFID proximity warning alarm systems offer a two-way solution. It’s very simple: the pedestrian can either wear an RFID tag on their sleeve or hard hat and all site vehicles are fitted with an RFID detector. Therefore, when a pedestrian gets too close to a vehicle, both the pedestrian and driver receive a warning.

It’s an effective system because when the alarm activates, neither party will ever ignore it. It signifies imminent danger of collision – no one wants that to happen. With this in mind, here are some key reasons why RFID proximity warning systems make a significant improvement in combatting vehicle/worker collisions.

1. They see around corners and through everything
In poor visibility conditions, standard PPE and even cameras are proven to be fallible when it comes to preventing collisions between pedestrians and construction vehicles. Radio frequency identification (RFID) offers a new dimension to site safety by giving all site workers an extra level of control and protection. It ‘sees’ around corners, and is unaffected by environmental conditions such as dust and smoke and poor light conditions.

2. A two-way alarm system failsafe
The pedestrian wears the RFID tag on their sleeve or hard hat. At the same time, all working site vehicles are fitted with an RFID exclusion zone generator. Whenever a pedestrian enters the detection zone of a vehicle, both the pedestrian and driver receive a warning. The RFID tag on the pedestrian’s sleeve or hat vibrates and an external alarm sounds, making them aware of the vehicle’s proximity, while the driver is alerted by sound and flashing lights inside their vehicle’s cab.

3. They are discreet, small and light
An RFID proximity tag is light enough to wear on your hard hat, and the RFID detector is simple to install on your plant vehicle.  Systems like SiteZone can be hired or purchased, and have full installation and service support.

4. Any site manager or contractor can hire them
OnGrade for example, has made its RFID proximity alarms available for hire. That means small companies or sole traders can afford to kit themselves out on jobs that require the use of RFID protection, without having to purchase the system. Hiring also comes with the added protection of equipment replacement in the highly unlikely event that anything goes wrong with it.

5. Makes site workers more aware of collision danger
Vehicle operators have reported that until they started using RFID proximity alarms, they hadn’t realised how often and how close they came to a possible accident each day.

6. Changes behaviours and bad habits
Vehicle operators, in particular, have already reported a change in behaviour at work because the proximity alarm has deterred pedestrians from ‘drifting’ too near to moving vehicles forklifts or plant. Wearers are more mindful of their movements due to the alarms. Having RFID proximity systems on vehicles means the operators stop and assess their situation if the alarm goes off; there are so many blind spots on large vehicles and seeing a pedestrian is not always possible.

7. Provides data to improve safety benchmarking
Advanced RFID systems are excellent benchmarking tools because they can log all ‘near miss’ incidents. Using such data, site managers can identify any repeat offenders who are at the highest risk of injury from potential collisions. The data informs targeted safety training, monitoring, saves on cost, time and improves efficiency. It can be shared across multiple sites and site movements and trends can be compared in relation to safety standards.

8. Applicable in different settings and industries
RFID proximity alarms are commonly used on construction sites, but any site, depot or warehouse where there is a lot of vehicle and pedestrian traffic would benefit. 
In poor visibility conditions, standard PPE and even cameras can be fallible. The use of reversing beepers and other sound alarms also have limited efficacy, since workers may be wearing ear protectors and not hear oncoming plant.
In areas where hard hats are not compulsory, wearing an RFID tag on the sleeve can make all the difference, especially if the lighting conditions are not very bright.
RFID proximity warning can also be applied effectively in the rail industry as the requirements for ongoing trackside maintenance involves vehicles and workers in close proximity.

9. Using them demonstrates an interest staff safety and welfare
Employers who invest in RFID proximity alarms are making a significant improvement in site safety and anti-collision avoidance, as well as exercising good occupational health practice. If workers are constantly worried that they may have an accident on the job, it causes stress. Should the worst happen and members of staff are involved in a collision incident, the consequences of physical injury, mental trauma and guilt are long lasting. An RFID tag could help to reduce the risks significantly.

10. They save lives
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has recorded 5,000 workplace transport accidents per year, of which 50 result in people dying at work.   Any fatalities are usually caused by people being hit, falling off or crushed by vehicles.

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