Over the last 6 years, just under half (45%) of all workplace fatalities in Ireland have involved vehicles. In the same period, nearly one in five (18%) of all non-fatal accidents were vehicle-related. An analysis of HSA accident statistics indicates that the majority of these fatalities occurred during the manoeuvring, reversing or coupling and uncoupling of vehicles. On May 22, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in Ireland began a nationwide work-related vehicle safety inspection and information campaign to make sure that employers are aware of their legal responsibilities for managing vehicle risks, and to help them reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring.
In the UK, the number of fatal injuries in waste and recycling in 2016/17 is almost double the annual average for the past five years and compares with 6 deaths in 2015/16. Based on the annual average rates for 2012/13-2016/17, waste and recycling come out worst, with a rate of injury higher than the average across all industries respectively. Being struck by moving vehicles accounted for 31 fatal injuries to workers in 2016/17, and was one of the causes of around three-quarters of fatal injuries 2016/17 and the combined five-year period 2012/13-2016/17.
In the United States, the report “Reducing Accidents in the Waste Industry” by PRECO Electronics and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) gives and in-depth look at collision mitigation systems and how they reduce struck-by accidents from blind zones on waste industry vehicles. It reveals that the waste & recycling industry is the 5th most dangerous occupation in the United States and that workers in solid waste collection were also in the top three job classifications to have the highest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, most caused by overexertion, being struck-by, striking against, or being compressed in equipment. From July 2015 to June 2016, there were 98 fatalities directly related to the waste industry, with 60 of those being civilians. Over one-fourth of these incidents were a result of a collision between a waste collection vehicle and a pedestrian or bicyclist.
The Real Cost of Blind Spot Accidents
Why do these accidents happen? The report states that one key reason is the blind spots inherent in waste collection trucks and other heavy equipment used in the industry. Equipment operators might not see a worker in their blind spot or they may assume that their machine’s path of travel is clear.
Struck-by blind spot accidents occur when a moving vehicle strikes a worker or civilian who is standing, walking, or kneeling around the vehicle.
The report cited a recent study that found that over 50% of solid waste companies have experienced as many as five separate blind spot accidents in the past 12 months. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that the average cost of a waste collection truck accident that results in an injury is approximately $97,000.
How does a company determine the real cost of a blind spot accident? Direct costs are the most obvious factors, including worker’s compensation, property damage, and legal fees. Less obvious factors include indirect costs like production downtime and insurance premium increases. But some of the most impactful costs—the intangibles— are often overlooked: how preventable accidents affect the attitudes and opinions of employees, customers, and competitors toward the company.
The Impact of Blind Spot Accidents
In a recent PRECO survey of waste & recycling employers and employees, 93% of participants found that downtime due to struck-by blind zone accidents significantly affects worksite productivity. Productivity slows or halts due to damage to equipment and property, and injuries and deaths to workers and civilians.
Respondents listed the various safety technologies and measures they use to prevent accidents. Two of the most common measures –spotters and mirrors- are hindered by equipment blind spots.
A common reason preventable struck-by accidents happen in the solid waste & recycling industry is that active safety technology is not installed or used. Many OEMs now over safety technology as a standard feature on new heavy equipment. But when the lifespan of heavy equipment is taken into consideration, it will be decades before safety equipment is standard on all working machines. Consider retrofitting existing equipment with active safety technologies.
Safety Technologies Installed on Industry Equipment
Survey participants indicated which safety technologies they currently use, technologies they plan to install within a year, and technologies they would consider purchasing.
A Proven Strategy to Mitigate Blind Spot Accidents
Based on insights gained from industry research, and PRECO’s expertise as the industry leader in technology-based object detection systems for heavy-duty equipment, here are some tips to help create a safe and healthy work environment.
Create a Safe Working Environment:
- Make safety a company-wide strategic goal.
- An emphasis on safety must come from the top down.
- Remind employees that their families depend on them to come home safely every day.
- Practicing safety is a life or death activity. Communicate that to your employees.
- Emphasize safety through the use of signage throughout the workplace and company vehicles • Make participation in an annual safety training program mandatory.
- Provide coaching to employees who need to address unsafe behaviours or habits.
Every piece of heavy-duty equipment is different. Since vehicles are designed for specific and usually logistically complicated tasks, no one-size-fits all safety package works for every equipment type. By accounting for all of the unique variables associated with a wide range of heavy equipment, collision avoidance systems can fill in the gaps and blind spots in safety practices over a wide range of industries. By integrating radar with other active and passive technologies, the ultimate collision mitigation safety solutions come into focus.
Turning Passive Systems into Active Safety Solutions
Vision systems have become a critical part of safety in the solid waste industry. Currently, many OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) offer visibility cameras to help companies avoid unnecessary accidents and potential litigation. However, this technology is a passive approach to collision avoidance. This is because camera/monitor systems require the attention of the equipment operator, putting the responsibility on the operator to identify an obstacle or person at risk of being struck.
Active warning systems rely on sensor technology, such as object detection radar, to identify the potential danger. As soon as an object is detected, the operator receives an alert. The alert gives them the opportunity to identify the potential threat using the vision system, and then take appropriate action.
By integrating active and passive safety solutions, operators achieve the best of both worlds. Radar/vision fusion provides an object detection solution with both audible and visual alerts to actively notify an operator of potential collision danger. Regardless of where the operator’s attention is directed, if an object or person is in the vehicle’s blind spot, the system alerts the operator, and the operator is able to react before a potential accident occurs.
Object Detection Solution for Waste Collection Trucks
Here’s a quick look at a potential object detection solution for a typical waste collection vehicle. Please note, actual solutions for different vehicle types and work environments vary.
Installing collision mitigation solutions on vehicles will further help to significantly reduce struck-by accidents and fatalities. Radar object detection systems help to improve driver engagement and situational awareness in real time. These systems should be specifically designed to serve the vehicle or machine type and the blind zones that come with them. The mix of oversized equipment, service trucks, environmental conditions, and people on a site can create dangerous conditions, which is why systems that actively warn of potential collisions with both moving and stationary objects are important.
How mWorkerCIS can help
mWorkerCIS is a system that gathers data from workers in the field. It is an efficient and effective way of capturing and collating data/information for analysis, with photographs, reports, GPS locations, signatures and time stamps. A system such as mWorkerCIS becomes a critical requirement for vehicle inspections. mWorkerCIS can guarantee the fit-to-drive data collection and reporting requirements to ensure that tyres, brakes, steering and all vehicle factors are roadworthy. Several companies are using mWorkerCIS for their daily, weekly and monthly vehicle check lists. Forms can be modified to include specific questions regarding cameras, mirrors, sensors and monitors. These questions can be configured so that they are only asked for relevant vehicles.