The building and construction industry experiences one of the highest incidences of injury and death in comparison to other industries. This is likely due to the nature of the work (physical), environmental factors (particularly long hot summers in Australia or long harsh winters in Europe and Northern America), and the sometimes transient nature of the workforce.
The three most common causes of serious injury or death on construction sites are:
1. Falls from heights
2. Contact with electricity
3. Being hit by falling objects
It is essential that construction companies are aware of the dangers their workers face and build appropriate responses into their safety management plan for use across all of their sites.
One of the best ways to ensure worker safety is to install a safety alert system. There are at least half a dozen well known brands on the market and the choice of what to go with can be overwhelming.
Here are our top eight things to consider when choosing your safety alert system.
1) Is the safety alert system reliable?
Traditional safety alert systems have relied on repeaters and expensive cabling. This point to point system has many disadvantages across sites. It possesses an inherent vulnerability where the entire system can be compromised by a single point of failure and demands that systems be set up in a rigid style that offers little flexibility. Additionally, signal strength can be a problem, which could be hazardous in the case of an emergency.
When looking for a Safety Alert System, we recommend seeking out a system that utilises a wireless network. Without the need for repeaters, these systems are often more flexible and will offer increased connectivity.
2) Is the safety alert system simple to use/highly visible?
To be successful on your site, your safety alert system needs to be simple to use for all workers. According to research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health, employees in their first month on the job have more than 3 times the risk for a lost-time injury than workers who have been at their job for more than a year.
Consider a worse case scenario: someone who is new on site needs to trigger a nurse call or evacuation alert. Do they know what to do? Do they know where to go? When they're in front of the device, is it clear what button they have to press? Can they easily tell if their alert has been sent and received?
Add to this the added complication that they are likely to be in high distress, there could be poor visibility on site, or they could be the one who is injured. How easy is the system to use?
3) Is the safety alert system a modular system?
Construction sites are ever-changing and safety alert systems need to be flexible enough to scale with the site. Using a modular option means that your system can grow as your site does, ensuring that you're only paying for equipment when you need it which maximises your budget and minimises the chance of equipment loss.
When considering the flexibility of the system, it is also necessary to consider how easy it is to set up new components and adjust existing ones. Simply being able to add or remove elements to a system is one thing, but companies should look for a system that makes this process simple.
Ideally, you want to select a system that can be installed/modified by your own team without the need for specialist installers or technicians. This helps you control expenditure while minimising site down time waiting for a third party to fit you into their schedule.
4) What is the real battery life of the safety alert system?
Even the best safety alert system is useless if the battery life is compromised. While companies claim that battery life can last up to a year, the reality is often quite different when in field, particularly if you're conducting regular tests that further drain the battery.
More significantly, the way your system is set up can also have a negative impact on the battery life. Many safety alert systems pair a siren and a trigger together on the same battery. However, the siren has significantly higher power requirements and can exhaust batteries far more quickly than expected. When possible, seek out a safety system that separates sirens and triggers to minimise this problem.
When speaking to companies, make sure you clarify their statement of battery life is drawn from site usage, not general expectations.
5) Can you view data on your system's status in real time?
When safety becomes a priority across all your sites, the importance of real-time data comes into play.
While the usage of real-time data varies across different safety alert systems, it can be vaguely classified into two different categories. Firstly, real-time data can be used to assess the health of a system, ensuring all components are functioning as intended and sending alerts when this is not the case. Secondly, real-time data can be used in the case of an emergency to notify the required workers of the situation and lower response times through integration with technology such as mobile phones.
When considering your requirements for real-time data, consider the time and money you wish to save through a lowered testing schedule as well as the way you would like to handle real- time alerts. Finding a system that is flexible and will cater to your requirements here is paramount.
6) Does the system allow for two-way notifications in the event of an emergency?
While the primary goal of all sites is to avoid both a medical emergency - which would require a nurse call alert - and evacuation event - which would require an evacuation alert, the reality is that these may happen. When they do occur, your safety alert system should not just cut response times and make it easy for workers to respond, it should also offer two-way notifications with injured individuals.
Why is this important? Traditional systems were able to alert people to an emergency, but they had no capacity to inform the worker that help was on the way. This could often lead to the worker not staying at the scene of the accident and risking further injury to find help and even if the worker did stay in the location, they would frequently suffer from more severe emotional distress. The simple change of allowing a worker to know help is on the way can offer much needed relief.
7) What reports do you want to be able to access?
Many companies only consider the ways a safety alert system can respond in the case of an emergency, but it is also worth considering what reporting comes as part of your system.
Good safety alert systems will give you a log of all system events, ensuring that you have access to all the critical information to not only investigate emergencies but to satisfy the requirements of audits. Make sure you have an understanding of what reporting the system can offer you as well as the ease of getting this information.
8) Will you be looking to maintain the system yourself (and save $$ by not having to bring in a third party)?
When choosing a safety alert system, it’s also necessary that you consider what happens when things go wrong. When the system is damaged or needs repairs, being able to work with a reliable company that you trust is essential.
Requirements are likely to vary, but consider what your personal needs are. Some companies will have packages that cover all maintenance or have provisions for one-off services, while others will not offer any significant post sales.