Creating Safer Workplaces Through Wearable Anti Collision Technology

By David Thomas, GM at ZoneSafe

Technology has become a regular part of our everyday lives. From paying for goods to mapping our fitness, we are all used to some aspect of tech to support our daily activities. By harnessing new innovative developments, it is possible to meet many everyday challenges, and safety is one key area that has significantly benefited from technological advances.

Safety technology comes in many forms. Recent years have seen the development of a wide range of solutions that have the power to address workplace safety concerns efficiently. By incorporating such solutions with items worn on the person, intelligent systems become a part of everyday personal protective equipment (PPE), enhancing safety without disrupting operations. Workers can be monitored and alerted in real-time to safety hazards through physical, visual or audible prompts. This approach is highly effective in circumstances with significant safety risks, such as areas where people and vehicles operate in close proximity and where there is a risk of collision.

Anti-collision solutions

Accidents involving moving vehicles at work are exceptionally dangerous, with vehicle/pedestrian collisions repeatedly reported as being one of the leading causes of worker fatal and severe non-fatal accidents in the workplace. In 2022/23, 135 people suffered fatal accidents in UK workplaces, 20 of which were due to being hit by a moving vehicle. Of 27 deaths in the waste and recycling sector over a 5-year period (2017/18-2021/22), 10 were due to being hit by a moving vehicle.

Non-fatal accidents can be equally devastating, resulting in life-changing and often debilitating injuries that ruin lives. It is estimated almost 1400 people were seriously injured by vehicle strikes in the workplace in the period between 2014/15 and 2022/23. Events like these occur year after year, so it’s clear that finding solutions that help to reduce the numbers is undoubtedly a positive step.

Proximity warning systems offer a flexible and straightforward solution to address this risk. The ZoneSafe system incorporates a small tag individuals wear, which becomes part of standard daily PPE. The tag is worn on a lanyard, placed in a pocket or attached to clothing, work boots, or a helmet.

The system also includes an antenna or “detection unit” fitted to manual handling equipment such as forklifts, loaders and other vehicles. The system uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to create an adjustable, invisible detection zone around each vehicle. The vehicle and personal tags interact to form a line of communication, which raises the alarm when vehicles and pedestrians come into close proximity. The system delivers an audio/visual alarm to the driver whilst the pedestrian receives a vibration warning from the tag as soon as the detection zone around the vehicle is breached. ZoneSafe has been applied across multiple high-risk industries with overwhelmingly positive results and significantly reduced safety breaches. 

Workers are assigned a tag on entry alongside other protective equipment for controlled access workplaces. The ability to wear the system as part of everyday workwear makes it incredibly easy to apply without causing any disruption to workflow.

Worth the investment 

Traditional PPE is commonplace, protecting bodies from specific threats. Hard hats, gloves, aprons, work boots, etc, are all accepted as requirements, but adding proximity tags takes worker protection to another level. Often, businesses don’t explore new safety technologies due to budget constraints or the perception that they require heavy investment. However, the cost of accidents far outweighs any investment should insufficient safety systems fail.

In May of last year, two major transport companies were fined a combined total of £2.2 million after a depot manager was struck and killed by a reversing HGV four years earlier. The victim was sadly killed when a reversing vehicle failed to stop in time. The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that both companies failed to manage the risks associated with workplace transport. It stated that the accident was “completely preventable”, but there was “insufficient control of risks associated with workplace transport, reversing vehicles and poor visibility.”

Preventable accidents 

The HSE continues to highlight that many of these accidents are entirely preventable with the right safety measures in place. Companies must fully assess risks and ensure clear processes and stringent systems are applied to mitigate them.

The HSE Workplace Transport Safety: A Brief Guide recommends total segregation of vehicles and pedestrians and “careful management to control and reduce the likelihood of accidents” where people and vehicles operate in close proximity. One of the key benefits of a wearable system such as ZoneSafe is that the individual constantly possesses the solution. Workers go about their everyday tasks, but as soon as a risk is identified, the wearer is immediately alerted so their awareness is raised, and they can remove themselves from impending danger.

Proactively address safety concerns 

Proximity warning systems not only alert wearers to imminent danger but also capture crucial hazardous environmental data as they work.

Data collected helps to identify concerning worker behaviours as well as high-risk areas and activities within the site. This information allows businesses to take an entirely preventive approach to safety, proactively meeting safety concerns before accidents happen. Insights can be incorporated into training, creating high-risk training scenarios based on actual events within the specific workplace.

Lasting impact 

There is no doubt that safe workplaces are more productive workplaces. An Oxford University study revealed that workplaces with fewer injuries are the most productive. The same study also revealed that high morale and happiness at work boasts 13% more productivity.

Accidents happen in the blink of an eye, and a small oversight can easily result in devastating events with far-reaching repercussions for individuals and businesses. A simple wearable device has the power to make a huge difference. ZoneSafe wearable technology helps businesses to create a safer work environment, empowering workers to protect themselves following prompts from the proximity sensors – a simple way to avoid a catastrophic event.