With the development of new vehicle safety technology comes the ever-present danger of complacency. Traffic signals were once a sensation - drivers knew to slow down on yellow and stop on red. Today drivers tend to treat a yellow light turning red like the final sprint of a race. They charge full-speed ahead and safety becomes the back seat driver that is often dismissed.
The beeping sound of a vehicle moving in reverse once turned heads for 100 yards in every direction. Now, most people ignore the sound. Vehicles are equipped with mirrors, but how many drivers use them? New car buyers want lane departure technology, but how long will it be before they rely on other warning features instead of looking around them?
Safety Technology Is Amazing. But It’s Not Perfect.
This is all to say that technology can, and has, lead to tremendous improvements in heavy-duty equipment safety, whether used on the road, in the mines, or across construction sites. The cabs of modern dump trucks and front-end loaders give operators an unprecedented ability to see around their vehicles—either visually or through object-detection and warning systems.
Installation of radar, vision, RFID, and GPS systems have, in many ways, revolutionized safety. For their part, equipment manufacturers go to great lengths to design for maximum operator visibility and an absolute minimum of potential blind spots. But all it takes in an inattentive or tired operator, a dirty or broken window, a careless motorist or bicyclist, to defeat all of those precautions.
Individuals who work around heavy equipment can tend to lower their guard and become complacent. And then there is the technology that pulls our attention away from potential hazards, instead of making us more aware of them.
Safety Must Continue to Be a Shared Responsibility
High tech’s promise of the accident-free operation of heavy equipment is so close you can almost touch it. But in the meantime, fleet managers still have to give the men and women who work in and around heavy-duty equipment their due. Technology notwithstanding, safety is still the shared responsibility of equipment operators, their coworkers on the ground, and the pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and other vehicle operators who must share the same space.
Companies who understand this shared responsibility take extra steps to improve safety. They have their workers sit in heavy equipment cabs and watch as other workers move around on the ground. This as an effective way to drive home to workers just how hard it is for drivers to see and keep track of objects near the vehicle.
These companies train their workers to remember that just because they can see a piece of heavy equipment, that doesn’t mean the operator can see them. They establish speed zones on construction sites, prohibit workers from approaching equipment until it has come to rest, and don’t allow pickup truck parking along vehicle travel paths. They install technology on their equipment—and train their operators to fully understand the capabilities and the limitations of the technology.
They understand that operators can only do so much, can only be responsible for so much. Even with perfect 360-degree visibility, an operator may not always have time to avoid an impending obstacle.
Safety companies like PRECO are working to develop technologies that will bring us closer to that perfect vision of full visibility and object awareness. But safety cannot rest on the shoulders of equipment operators alone. Industries must combine the best of safety technology with a workforce continually trained to avoid complacency—to take responsibility for their own safety. Only then can an industry say it’s doing everything it can to keep the people in and around heavy equipment safe.