The unhealthy side of collision risks

Gary Escott Feb 13, 2019 11:06:00 AM

The relationship between feeling good and working well

I have no doubt that there’s a strong correlation between your health and how you work. Especially when it comes to mental well-being at work – stress can be a distraction, and a real danger if you work in a high-risk industry.

Work-related mental health is being discussed in the open now – the dialogue has begun to help us all manage daily pressures at work. Statistics have shown that stress at work has become one of the top reasons for absenteeism, cross sector.  A recent survey showed that 84 percent of workers in the UK have suffered with mental health issues due to stress.

Even though we have begun communicating more about mental well-being at work in the last few years, the Office of National Statistics still recorded that of the 13,000+ work suicides recorded between 2011-2015 in the UK, 13.2% of those were in the construction and building trades industries. That’s telling a different story underneath, and with time, openness and action, that too will change for the better, I hope.

This is why I believe, existing pressures at work, especially in a high-risk industry, should not be worsened by a fear of hitting someone or being struck by a vehicle. This is where technology can change the odds significantly.

The fear is real

Plant operators have shared with us that the fear of hitting someone that they can’t see hidden behind a blind spot on their vehicle makes their working day much more stressful than it needs to be. Furthermore, the site pedestrians who cause the risk tend not to follow the safety rules, so they become a persistent source of pressure to vehicle operators. Trying to function safely with that constant anxiety must be burdensome.

Plant vehicles have blind spots and are often large and cumbersome; working sites are loud with distractions, so workers on foot can stray too close to a plant vehicle and that’s when accidents happen.  If you consider busy depots, like those in the waste industry, people and vehicles are working at close quarters all the time – collisions can occur because sometimes human beings make mistakes, despite their best efforts to be careful.

The statistics still reveal a shortfall

Whichever sector you’re looking at, the responsibility to keep workplaces starts with employers, but that responsibility also trickles right across the workforce, whether it’s managers or operatives. If there’s something that can be done to improve work-related health and safety conditions, then those channels must be explored.

Let’s consider the construction industry whose accident figures remain high, despite improvements in recent years. The fatality figures suggest that spatial awareness is not always present when personnel are working in close proximity to vehicles and plant. The HSE reported that between 2016-17, being struck by a moving vehicle was the most common kind of fatal accident. You might ask how that is possible, considering that drivers and plant operators, being high up in big vehicles seem to have a visual advantage, and even have aids like cameras on their machines. Well, we now know that this is not the case and even the most vigilant operator can miss a pedestrian that’s too close and consequently out of visual range.

Really think about how tech can help prevent accidents

Some of the common safety risks that cause plant and vehicle operators anxiety on a regular basis can be addressed with RFID technology. The risks aren’t that far-fetched either, like the ever-present blind spots, rear visibility, overloaded buckets, extended machine parts blocking views, people and vehicles in confined busy spaces, or reversing and turning, just to name a few.

By using technology like SiteZone to fill the gaps where errors occur, safety performance on site can be significantly improved. Now we even have the capability to record and measure safety performance by using telematic features like OverSite. That means the entire workforce can work to a common, higher safety standard honed by hard facts specific to their jobs.

If workers feel safer while working in a high-risk environment, it will affect their mental well-being positively. By decreasing the risk of collisions at work it encourages a sense of security for them. It’s like having an extra pair of ‘technological eyes’ that see everything that they can’t. 

By developing technology through listening, collaboration and innovation, as safety professionals, we can help to make working lives better, safer, and happier. Let’s make it a priority that health and safety work together because when one fails, chances are the other won’t be far behind.