Every year thousands are injured or killed while working with or around machinery of all types, sizes and brands. Of course, construction involves risks, but any job undertaken carelessly can be made dangerous, and likewise any dangerous job can be made safer, if everyone concerned devotes the thought and time.
Over its long history Volvo has established a reputation for developing safer machines – and safety is still a core value of the company today.
Volvo focuses on designing and building machines that are as reliable and safe as possible. New features are constantly being developed to improve the safety of the machines, both for the operator and for the environment. And when it comes to designing new machines, it is the Volvo philosophy to start simple and become only more complicated if necessary.
As a large proportion of accidents are due to people slipping or falling off machines, basic things like sturdy anti-slip steps and rails can make a big difference. Rollover and falling object protection systems, seat belts, effective lighting and eradication of blind spots also help, as does reduced vibration and noise – and a clear view of the work area. There are more complex safety systems such as overload indicators, proximity sensors, full dual circuit brakes and reversing cameras. These combine with a comfortable cab environment that reduces operator fatigue (itself a cause of many accidents) to create a reassuring package.
As construction machinery tends to have a hard life, it is important that it is well maintained. If you can design in easy servicing, ideally keeping the operator or technician on the ground rather than climbing over the machine, then you increase safety by improving the chances that maintenance is carried out on schedule and by reducing the risk of a fall.
But these machine safety features will not significantly reduce the number of accidents and injuries unless we take a co-ordinated approach to safety, one involving good site layout and rules. Even this will not halt accidents completely, but it will reduce the likelihood of them happening.
Accidents are generally the result of a chain of events and badly performed activities. Little corners cut here and there can add up to a big accident. In fact it has been reported that up to 60 per cent of all fatalities on sites can be attributed to choices made before work began.
So before any work starts you should consider how best to coordinate the movement of people, materials and machinery. A large part of this is establishing a traffic management plan for routes that give the safest passage between places where vehicles and people operate.
Even when you have a well laid out site and well designed and maintained equipment accidents can still happen. Lifting too heavy a load, driving too fast, exceeding the safe work angle – or a host of other situations can put operators and those around them in danger.
Creating a safer site is up to everyone, so there is no point in hushing up minor accidents or ?near misses?. In fact, problems can be raised openly and quickly rectified by encouraging a culture of ?no fault/no blame?. Safety training can also help, and at every machine handover Volvo stresses the importance of carefully reading the operators? manual, which contains numerous tips on how to operate the machine safely.
The best way to visibly raise the importance of safety on site is insisting that everyone wears the right protective equipment. High visibility jackets, hard hats, steel-toed boots are not only effective in themselves; they also reinforce the message that safety is everyone?s responsibility.
Not only are accidents a tragedy for workers and their families, they are not good advertisements for attracting talented young people into the industry. However, through a concerted effort by everyone involved, we can improve the safety record of the extractive, resources and construction industries. And it doesn?t stop there; preventing accidents is one element of improving the general health of those around construction equipment.
As is becoming apparent, it is increasingly difficult to separate the elements of quality, safety and environmental care. Volvo takes its leadership in these three core values seriously, and is committed not just to the development of ever safer products, but also increasing the awareness and knowledge levels of how people interact with machinery and how these, in turn, interact with their work environment.
Kellie Wigg is the national marketing co-ordinator of CJD Equipment