It’s no secret that working in the heavy-duty industry is one of the most productive, yet challenging and dangerous professions. Heavy-duty operators need to be nothing short of superhuman. Not only do they need a honed, specific skill-set, but they need simultaneous small- and large-picture awareness, and a game plan for when things don’t go as expected. Heavy-duty operators need to be able to think on their feet in a heightened environment to make the best decisions possible to avoid collision and injury. That’s no small task considering the inevitable risks associated with these jobs.
Refuse and recyclable materials collectors continue to rank in the top 10 in terms of civilian occupations with the highest fatal injury rates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2014 and 2015 it was ranked the fifth most dangerous occupation.
“Backing incidents comprise about 25 percent of all accidents and injuries in the waste industry,” according to SWANA Executive Director David Biderman.
Construction is also a highly dangerous industry. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 4,386 work fatalities were investigated in 2014, 20.5% of which were in construction—up 6 percent from 2013. Being struck by a moving vehicle was one of the four leading causes of construction worker deaths. Twenty-five percent of struck-by equipment deaths involve construction workers—more than any other occupation.
The mining industry also has huge safety hurdles. With trucks measuring over 40’ (12.5m) long, 25’ (7.5m) wide and 18’ (5.5m) high, the blind zones are potentially immense—in some cases, mining trucks have 360° blind zones.
The highways can be just as dangerous considering the five-axle, 80,000-pound trucks with 51-foot trailers driving at 65 mph for long stretches over long hours, usually with a solo driver who is weighing the costs of self-care (e.g., getting enough sleep) against productivity (e.g., meeting or beating time).
In busy urban settings, side impacts between large trucks and busses, and pedestrians and bicyclists are on the rise. According to data from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, over the course of a recent five-year period, 556 U.S. pedestrians and cyclists were killed by side-impacts with large trucks.
The Superpowers of Radar
Reducing accidents in heavy-duty industries can seem like a perpetual game of catch-up. On mining and construction sites, spotters are a proven method of protecting employees on foot behind large vehicles with obstructed views, but those very same spotters are the most common accident victims.
Throughout heavy-duty industries, alarms are installed on equipment, but their warning signals have become so commonplace that they are often ignored. While helpful, cameras require operators to take their eyes off the wheel and look at an in-cab monitor in order to detect an obstruction in their blind zone(s). Harsh environmental conditions on heavy-duty sites can cause moisture, dust, dirt, mud, rain, snow, and sun glare, making cameras unreliable at times.
Heavy equipment operators need active safety warning systems that can operate effectively in rugged conditions to detect people and objects, giving operators ample time to react and avoid collisions. Proximity warning systems (also known as object detection systems) have emerged as one of the more successful solutions. Systems engineered specifically for heavy-duty industries use radar-based sensors that are capable of operating in harsh environmental conditions, and are built to withstand these extremes in order to reliably detect both moving and stationary objects.
Best-in-class radar-based warning systems provide unique advantages to heavy-duty equipment operators. These advantages include:
- Detection zones that can be adjusted to meet machine sizes and site conditions
- Sensors that are ruggedized to withstand harsh conditions and require minimal, if any, maintenance
- Easy-to-install systems
- Systems that can actively monitor blind zones for people, equipment, structures, etc.
- Systems that can be integrated with existing and future systems (such as cameras, telematics, vehicle control and automation) to improve detection and help mitigate accidents
Radars are now used extensively for everything from air traffic control to hurricane and storm detection to even mapping the terrain of other planets. Heavy-duty equipment radar is essential to reducing the incidence and severity of collisions and ultimately saving lives.