Utilizing smart tech

By |  March 8, 2019
While technology tends to pull job prospects to other industries, many aggregate producers have tech opportunities available that can lead to long-lasting careers. Photo: iStock.com/SeventyFour

Technology can play an important role in safety at aggregate operations. Photo: iStock.com/SeventyFour

The simplest notions sometimes have the greatest impact.

How about this one: You can’t have a high-morale workplace if you don’t have a safe work environment.

Andy Blanchard, president and CEO of Syntron Material Handling, shared this sentiment during a discussion on safety tech at the 2019 Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference.

There’s no denying the truth in this statement. No one wants to work in an environment that breeds fear and uncertainty. And in the aggregate industry, where a split-second lapse can lead to someone getting seriously hurt or killed, a single event can have lasting effects on a crew’s confidence.

“The number one thing that will destroy the culture that you have, or prevent new employees from coming to work with you, is having a lousy safety record,” Blanchard says.

Technologies that make us safer

Fortunately, most aggregate producers maintain a high bar when it comes to safety. Even the safest producers continuously explore ways to make their operations safer.

While most safety incidents are behaviorally based, tech solutions are either already available, emerging or under consideration to minimize the chance of an accident happening.

Powered haulage safety, for example, is an area the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) is promoting. MSHA doesn’t have all the answers, but the agency wants to engage our industry on safety tech.

On powered haulage, one intriguing tech solution is collision avoidance radar. Sean Martell, North American sales manager at Preco Electronics, describes there being a push in our industry for this kind of technology.

Safety tech doesn’t have to be overcomplicated, either. On haul trucks, how about building in something that sounds a horn before the machine physically moves? Or, requiring a seat belt to be clicked in place in order for equipment to be operable?

The beauty of equipment development now is that manufacturers incorporate safety concepts into their designs. Manufacturers didn’t always do this.

“Twenty years ago when developing equipment, safety wasn’t important,” says Rick Madara, McLanahan’s director of sales for North America. “You looked at quality, efficiency. Now, safety is one of the number one things we look at – even if it diminishes something in the product and makes it more expensive.”

Remote diagnostics are making people safer on the job, as well.

“All of that prevents a tech from having to climb on and off the machine,” says Craig Lamarque, a division manager at John Deere. “That’s a primary opportunity for injury, getting on and off machines.”

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