Safer Highways | Using technology to minimise the risk to our people from overhead strikes
As we are all acutely aware, the risks to our workforce from overhead strikes is something which we, as an industry, have long overlooked.
By the sheer nature of keeping our network moving, much of our works is carried out – by necessity – at night in poor visibility and, indeed, we are reliant on task lighting to enable our people to carry out their work effectively and go Home Safe and Well at the end of every shift.
Many times we find that some of the biggest risks are existing before we even arrive, such as those underground and overhead. This is why we, as an organisation developed new technology, initially aimed at keeping our workers safe, but something that is scalable and could be rolled out across the industry.
Our solution is OverheadSafe – a pioneering personal hazard alert system which uses wearable technology to make road workers aware that they are approaching overhead power lines and structures. The automated visible warning provides a safety net, especially during hours of darkness, where blue cones and goalposts have not been noticed.
The innovation has been created to enhance current GS6 guidance: avoiding danger from overhead power lines, and leverages emerging technologies including IoT (internet of things) and cloud computing which we have worked in partnership with Microsoft to develop.
Every year, people are killed or suffer life-threatening injuries after coming into contact with overhead structures. There are over four thousand locations where overhead lines cross the Highways England strategic road network, and many more structures including bridges, gantries and variable message signs.
Richard Marshall, Regional Director for Yorkshire and the North East region at Highways England has been one of the early champions of this high-tech solution to an existing problem. In the following video he recounts how two colleagues lost their lives when their tower light hit an overhead cable during maintenance work on the A66.
OverheadSafe has undergone six months of live-testing on the Highways England Area 14 (North East) network and further development by Carnell’s innovation team to ensure a robust and reliable solution. Rich Marshall stated that “the benefit is not only to the road workers, but our customers in terms of a safer and smoother network”. Kier Highways have recently adopted the solution which is to be deployed on the M23 Smart Motorway Project.
Our aspiration for OverheadSafe is that, much like our SafetyCam vehicles, this becomes something which the industry adopts as a norm and instead of it being an innovation pioneered by one or two contractors it instead becomes simply a part of ‘what we do’ as a highways community to keep our people safe.
Longer term, we are looking to harness artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing and machine learning to process the vast pool of data that will be generated when the technology is deployed on a wider scale. This will provide insights of people’s behaviour around the hazard zones, predictive insights and ultimately drive improved safety for the entire industry’s workforce.
Future developments of OverheadSafe are as follows:
- An in-cab, dash mounted, version of OverheadSafe, to be used in any piece of plant capable of hitting overhead cables.
- A people plant interface (PPI) system to alert when people are working dangerously close to plant.
- A mobile, instant underground cable alerting system which uses multiple sensing technology.
For more information visit www.overheadsafe.com