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Situational Awareness Improves Safety and Efficiency

With hundreds of tower cranes active across the country, construction companies must look for ways to remain competitive while maintaining high safety standards. One strategy is to leverage the latest technology in situational awareness platforms, which includes a combination of sensors and camera systems that result in time and money savings, and most importantly fewer accidents.  

What Is Situational Awareness?
Crane operators often take the lead in maintaining the tempo of construction site operations. The ability to make immediate and accurate decisions directly affects the entire jobsite. Providing the operator with enough information to move materials and equipment and support ground crews is critical to smooth operations.

One way to improve the crane operator’s decision-making is through situational awareness. Often a term reserved for the military, situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and space. To put it simply, better visibility allows people to make better decisions. When personnel are properly trained and equipment is properly installed, situational awareness platforms can improve the decision-making capabilities of managers and equipment operators, resulting in more efficient and safer operations.

Effective situational awareness platforms provide operators with relevant information on hard-to-see areas without being a distraction. For example, a display mounted in the crane operator’s cab can show a live video feed from a wireless camera placed on the hook block. Another option is to mount cameras so the operator can see quickly around the equipment prior to relocating or moving the crane.

Save Time and Money
Blind lifts are some of the most dangerous and nerve-racking maneuvers for crane operators. Traditional blind lifts are often very slow and require time-consuming moves. Relying solely on the rigger to relay information to the crane operator with radio communication can cause a great deal of stress—especially if they have not worked together in the past. To be successful, they must work as a team and rely on each others’ judgment.

A wireless camera that is easy to deploy and has a rechargeable battery that lasts for an entire shift can significantly increase the construction crew’s efficiency. In fact, the crane operator can be up to 40 percent more efficient in a blind lift when using a camera mounted on or near the hook block in conjunction with a rigger.

If the entire crew can work faster without compromising safety, direct and indirect operational costs will decline. Additionally, improved visibility could mean fewer accidents, which reduces costly claims and loss of personnel.

Reduce Accidents
A foreman’s most important responsibility is the crew’s safety. A competent crane operator is critical to preventing accidents and instilling confidence in the people working below him.

A wireless camera system can allow the rigger and crane operator to decide when and where they need additional line of sight. The video also can be shared wirelessly for management to monitor the construction site and even recorded to evaluate the job’s efficiency or conduct a post-accident analysis.

Additional Considerations
There are some unintended benefits—and potentially negative consequences—tied to the use of cameras to improve situational awareness. Some employees may believe management is monitoring them on the cameras and therefore work harder, further increasing efficiency. Others may interpret cameras as an invasion of their privacy, which can be psychologically detrimental to a jobsite culture. It’s crucial to educate crews on the positive safety aspects of a situational awareness platform to alleviate anxiety and prevent workers from sabotaging the cameras or other construction equipment.

Finally, any wired or wireless equipment should be properly installed and maintained, as well as evaluated to ensure it does not interfere with (or run on the same frequencies as) jobsite radios and local EMS frequencies. Proper training, setup and rugged components need to be considered before attempting to install or use any situational awareness platforms onsite.

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