Life-savers

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

The waste sector is one of the most dangerous to work in, while a disproportionate number of its vehicles have been involved in cyclist fatalities. Thankfully, innovative technologies are improving safety for everyone. RWW reports on some of the best

There were 6,000 cases of work-related illness and 5,000 cases of workplace injury in the waste sector in 2014/15, according to the HSE, while in 2015/16, six people were fatally injured, demonstrating that the industry has one of the highest rates of worker fatalities in Britain. And one of the greatest risks to people’s health and safety, whether they are operators on a waste transfer station or cyclists on the streets of London, is when they are in close proximity to mobile plant. Vehicle manufacturers and specialists in safety systems have therefore been giving this issue a great deal of thought.

OnGrade, a specialist in safety solutions for mobile plant, believes the risk of plant-personnel collisions has become manageable with the help of wearable radio frequency identification (RFID) tech.

These RFID systems are able to ‘see’ past visual obstructions whether a blindspot, dust, smoke or fog, giving targeted warning alarms to both drivers and pedestrians should they enter each other’s working area. SiteZone by OnGrade is one such wearable RFID safety system that is reported to be reducing the instances of on-site collisions between pedestrians and plant.

Unlike cameras, RFID can ‘see around corners’ and isn’t hindered by dust, smoke or poor light conditions.

Two-way communication

SiteZone uses RFID to enable two-way communication between the plant operator and co-workers who are on foot. According to OnGrade, this is a unique feature as both parties have to take responsibility for collision avoidance. Vehicles are fitted with RFID detectors, while pedestrians have RFID transponders fitted to their hard hat or sleeve.

When a pedestrian enters the ‘bubble’ of a vehicle (which can be programmed to each vehicle and site-specific conditions), both the pedestrian and driver receive a ‘proximity warning’. The RFID tag vibrates, making the pedestrian aware of the vehicle, while the driver is alerted by sound and flashing lights.

Hampshire waste and recycling company Waltet Materials is the first business in the UK waste sector to fit safety panels to its lorry fleet from Andover company Dawes Highway Safety.

Christened the Dawes PeoplePanel, the safety panel aims to offer additional protection for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

Made of tough, shatter-resistant composite plastic, it is designed to be fitted over the under run bars or side guards of a heavy goods vehicle.

Normally the under run bars comprise two metal bars. The Dawes PeoplePanel ensures a cover, while still giving the operator the chance to access the underside of the vehicle, but prevents entanglement with a cyclist.

The PeoplePanel is constructed from an extra-tough-plastic shatter-resistant composite and is designed to bend rather than simply cutting into a person unfortunate enough to be in harm’s way.

The cover panels are fitted over existing side guards and still give the vehicle’s operator easy access to all of the vehicle components including batteries and ‘ad-blue’ tanks. Inventor and owner of Dawes Highway Safety, James Dawes, tells RWW: “As a motorcycle policeman in central London I regularly attended accidents between cyclists and large vehicles. I quickly recognised that almost every collision had terrible effects on the people who were injured. After realising that the most severe injuries were sustained when a person was dragged beneath a vehicle’s wheels, I simply had to do everything I could to stop the risk of such terrible harm.”

The DawesGuard, incorporating DropDown technology, is a pneumatically operated inflatable and retractable system that aims to prevent cyclists falling and being dragged under the wheels of a HGV by creating a protective barrier between the road surface, vehicle underside and vehicle wheels while operating on the roads.

Fitted to existing under run bars, the air-filled barrier is made from Hypalon, a tough Dupont synthetic rubber material. Compressed air from a vehicle’s standard reservoirs is used to inflate the DawesGuard to a working pressure of 12psi (0.8 bar). Below the inflatable section a row of tough bristles makes contact with the road surface to help prevent hands and feet becoming entangled by the wheels.

Warning display systems

Cyclists are also high on the agenda for Dennis Eagle when it comes to traffic safety. The Cyclear warning display system from Innovative Safety Systems (ISS) is now being fitted to Dennis Eagle’s Urban Safety Vehicle range.

Cyclear detects passing cyclists and audibly alerts the driver when the left indicator is activated. A speaker also sounds to let cyclists and other road users know when the vehicle is turning left as a second-tier warning. This is coupled with an intelligent sensor arrangement that detects cyclists and alerts drivers if they are being undertaken and the indicator is not in operation.

Mercedes-Benz takes this principle one step further with its Active Brake Assist 4 (ABA 4). Its USP is that it warns the driver of imminent collisions with moving pedestrians and simultaneously automatically initiates partial braking.

According to Mercedes-Benz, it is the first system of its type in the world to perform such functions. As well as enabling drivers to avoid a collision by means of emergency braking or a steering manoeuvre, they can additionally warn endangered pedestrians by sounding the horn.

ABA 4 is also said to detect moving pedestrians in almost all traffic situations, for example when they cross the truck’s path or step out from behind an obstacle. Its automated alerts and braking initiated by pedestrian detection are active up to a speed of 50km/h. And this is not all from the engineers at Mercedes-Benz – Sideguard Assist with pedestrian detection (due to be launched in December) gives truck drivers a helping hand with right turns in urban traffic; one of their most challenging tasks, what with having to heed traffic lights and signs ahead while simultaneously observing oncoming and crossing traffic and keeping an eye on pedestrians and cyclists at the side.

The system works in several stages. If there is a moving or stationary object in the side monitoring zone, the driver initially gets a visual warning. An LED in the shape of a triangle lights up at the driver’s eye level in the A-pillar on the co-driver’s side.

It attracts the driver’s attention to the situation alongside the vehicle and in the direction of the exterior mirrors on the co-driver’s side. If there is a risk of a collision, an additional visual and audible warning is triggered: the LED flashes brightly several times in red. After two seconds it remains permanently lit in red. At the same time an alarm sounds on the side where the collision is imminent.

If the sensors additionally detect a stationary obstacle such as a traffic light or street lamp in the tracking pattern of the truck during the process of turning, there is also a visual and audible warning. This helps to avoid collisions – not only on public roads, but also during manoeuvring, e.g. in parking areas. The tracking pattern alert is active up to a speed of 36km/h.

Reversing radar systems

Sentinel Systems, specialists in vehicle safety and camera solutions, says its range of reversing radar systems is particularly beneficial to refuse collection vehicles as it protects personnel working outside the vehicle.

The system itself is installed at the rear of the vehicle and is designed to detect obstructions such as buildings, objects or people while the vehicle is reversing. The radar then audibly warns the driver of the obstruction, indicating them to stop or, for the ultimate prevention aid, can physically stop the vehicle in its tracks.

Once the obstruction has passed, the system resets itself and allows the driver to resume their manoeuvre.

This year Sentinel has worked with Midlothian Council to provide four-camera systems to new food waste collection vehicles to assist in the day-to-day operation of the service.

Trevor Docherty, travel and fleet services manager at Midlothian Council, says: “Sentinel’s system not only offers the ultimate protection for our drivers, but allows us to monitor the services they are performing and to use the captured footage to settle any cases that may occur with residents.

“As an everyday service, these particular vehicles are also subject to difficult driving conditions, and by installing the cameras we can improve these for our drivers, including the crucial warning of approaching cyclists and pedestrians.”

A window of opportunity

Cheshire-based Astra Vehicle Technologies has collaborated with DAF Trucks UK to retrofit HGV fleets with additional windows.

Astra’s idea follows guidelines suggested by campaign group Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety (CLOCS). They published a report in early 2013 which revealed that between 2008 and 2013, 55% of cyclist fatalities in London involved a heavy goods vehicle. Astra’s response has been to develop Astra ClearView – a low-height and retractable passenger door window.

ClearView is a secondary low-level passenger door window that is designed to enhance driver view of kerbside obstacles, but which still allows the main window to fully open. This safety feature is reported to provide significant direct vision of any cyclists and pedestrians in the danger area near to the passenger door.


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