Skip to content

Proximity Warning System used by Costain on National Highways project

Flannerys Feb 7, 2022 1:47:05 PM
Managing People Plant Interface with Costain and National Highways

As part of Highways England Regional Development Program, the A30 project has been identified as a road of strategic importance within Cornwall that provides a vital road transport corridor across the whole region.

The scheme has numerous benefits, not only in improving journey reliability, safety, and local connectivity, but also in employing local people and engaging with schools and colleges to inspire, offer support and promote careers within the industry. The construction works that
started in March 2020 between Chiverton and Carland Cross are managed by Costain, with Flannery Plant Hire chosen to provide a range of plant, equipment, and operators.

Notably on the project, there are extensive archaeological activities being undertaken to identify and preserve the rich Cornish heritage around the old route, dating prehistory, through Roman times to medieval ironworking, right up to later-day mining, agricultural and military activity.

Over the last five years, there have been 217 fatal incidents on UK construction sites, 10 percent of which were due to the worker being struck by a moving vehicle. Identifying major hazards and managing their associated risk is a significant challenge for organisations operating in construction, and is the number one priority for Costain. Committed to our client’s purpose of creating an Injury-Free Environment, Flannery has been raising the bar for safety in construction through exploring initiatives that deliver the most progressive safety solutions.

To meet the growing demands for safety on the A30 project, Flannery have been working collaboratively with Costain and SiteZone Safety to trial the new SmartBubble innovation. Fitted on a range of the Flannery excavators, this technology aims to enhance the existing SiteZone Proximity Warning System and to minimise the inherent risk of incidents caused by People Plant Interface (PPI).

Choosing SiteZone technology

The SiteZone Proximity Warning System (PWS) is an intelligent audible and visual warning system designed to reduce the risk of vehicle-personnel collisions and can be used anywhere the proximity of people and vehicles working together is of concern.

SiteZone PWS produces a detection zone around a vehicle, machine, or even a restricted area. When the detection zone is breached by personnel wearing a SiteZone tag, the machine operator is alerted to their presence and can take the appropriate action. The technology ultimately mitigates the risk of any tagged employee entering the exclusion zone undetected.

To activate the technology, the pedestrian wears a tag (a part of the on-site PPE requirements and usually worn on the reverse of the hard hat). The tag allows technology to detect pedestrians on-site no matter from which angle they approach the machine and irrespective of environmental conditions. If the pedestrian accidentally enters the exclusion zone their SiteZone tag vibrates, the plant operator is alerted via the operator display unit (ODU), the external alert sounds, the beacon flashes, until the pedestrian leaves the zone to a position of safety or is given permission to approach. The technology has no blind spots, which means it detects pedestrians in the exclusion zone even if they are not visible to the operator on camera.

Integrating the latest SmartBubble development

One of the most recent SiteZone developments that have been installed on the Flannery machines during the trial on the A30 project is their SmartBubble innovation. This intelligent technology works with existing site protocols such as the Thumbs Up procedure and significantly enhances safety performance.

In many situations, people will need to be in close proximity to a machine to perform certain tasks SiteZone currently supports this by using the ‘authorised approach’ method. This approach means that the vehicle operator can allow people into the exclusion zone of a vehicle if the correct site protocols have been followed e.g. Thumbs Up. When the correct procedures have been followed, Smart Bubble technology automatically reduces the exclusion zone to a second predefined “safe zone” allowing personnel to carry out the required tasks. When the vehicle leaves its safe state and the deadman is disengaged, the exclusion zone automatically returns to its original radius.

What benefit has the site gained from using the proximity warning system?

  • Combining SiteZone with SmartBubble technology provides a warning solution that creates essential awareness between the operator, pedestrian, and other people working in close proximity
  • Maximises alarm integrity and reduces the potential impact on operational performance
  • Designed to complement the safe systems of work and significantly reduce the risk of accidents on site
  • Data analytics allow monitoring of the potential high-risk spots during operational works and the ability to implement immediate decisions about reducing the injury risk on site
  • Data collection and analysis supports future decision making and planning about safety on site

What makes this solution different?

  • No blind spots - pedestrians are detected even when not visible to the operator or when stationary
  • Task-specific - the exclusion zone can be customised depending on the size of the machine, the equipment, and the working environment
  • The detection zone is not affected by the machine’s movement
  • Pedestrians remain detected even in difficult environmental conditions such as heavy rain and fog
  • Mutual awareness between the plant operator and pedestrian when working in close proximity
  • The use of data can be used to drive behavioural change

Feedback from the project team

"People Plant Interface is one of the top fatal risks identifiers in the construction industry. Supporting the zero-incident culture, we are keen to enhance existing site protocols by implementing SiteZone and Smart Bubble technology across the project and train our people on how to detect any potential hazards. This smart technology is pure safety, it makes certain that performing certain tasks in close proximity to a machine cause zero harm.”

Alistair Melville, Costain Project Manager

"We’ve been working in collaboration with Flannery for many years, they provide tremendous help to us in evolving our PWS technology from an operator point of view.

One of the main differences of the SiteZone PWS is, that it doesn’t rely on line-of-sight, unlike camera devices. Similar to the A30 project, we are working on archaeological works, where we may have people in trenches that can make them invisible to the driver or any camera. The unique feature of this type of technology is that it ensures safe working on any type of construction site, including archaeology, quarrying, recycling/refuse collection.”
Gary Escott, SiteZone Safety Managing Director


"As part of our “Innovate with us” campaign, we are very pleased to support our innovative supplier SiteZone in having an actual experience of the real-life site environment where we can trial this pioneering product and get critical feedback from both our operators and site personnel.

We are really excited to see some genuine changes in behaviour on-site across the country. Using advances such as this, with tracing technology, we can begin to learn how to improve operations on site and how to pave the way to having fewer People Plant Interface incursions.”
Chris Matthew, Flannery Strategic Manager

"It works brilliantly with the blind spots of the machine. Obviously, the blind side is more worrying for anyone who passes because the operator doesn’t see the pedestrian until the last minute. As a plant operator (I’ve been operating for 20 years), when people come out of the blind spot, they don’t realise what movements you’re about to do. So, the SmartBubble feature is really helpful for us to avoid such a risky situation.”
Mark, Flannery Plant Operator

"This technology is really good in use, especially when, as a banksman, you are required to spend most of the time in close proximity to the machine. With the alarm signalling when you enter the exclusion zone of the machine, it notifies of the potential risky situation and continuously helps prevent any harm. It also works amazingly with the Thumbs Up Protocol. The alarm notifies you that the operator has engaged the deadman leaver and it is safe to approach.”

David, Banksman on the A30 project


By challenging the norms and fulfilling our client’s needs, Flannery is choosing to proactively implement safety innovations across its plant fleet.

As part of this ambitious project, Flannery has delivered a vast range of new plant and equipment which, in support Costain’s Zero-Harm culture, has been equipped with the new SiteZone SmartBubble technology. The technology raises the safety bar on how to prevent potential PPI accidents on site.

Going forwards, Flannery will work collaboratively with SiteZone Safety to install the new technology across the A30 project and use the gathered data to further enhance the detection of high-risk situations and get people home safe - every day.