A Worker Proximity Warning System

Late last year a paper was published entitled, “A Low-Cost Mobile Proximity Warning System in Highway Work Zones” by Yong Cho of the Georgia Institute of Technology. It was funded by the NCHRP IDEA program. IDEA or Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis is intended to develop and test new, innovative concepts and this paper did just that.

This system is designed to protect workers from moving construction equipment in the work area. Too often we hear about workers killed or injured by a truck or roller backing up or by an excavator swinging around to drop a shovel full of dirt or rock.

The system includes three main components: BlueTooth beacons mounted at various locations on the construction equipment; a pedestrian worker’s PPU or personal protection unit; and the equipment operators PPU. These PPU’s are BlueTooth enabled smart phones with an application designed to “see” the beacons and warn the workers – both the equipment operator and the pedestrian worker when someone is dangerously close to equipment.

The PPU warns the pedestrian worker in one or more user-defined ways: a loud alarm, vibration, or even via a BlueTooth ear piece. They type of warning varies with distance from the equipment. The worker can also define the range at which they are warned since the definition of “too close” will vary with the work being done.

Another interesting feature is the ability of the system to collect data in the cloud for later analysis. It would be a big help when going back to study a close call. And it would help with future internal traffic control plan design for similar types of work.

Best of all, it is very inexpensive costing less than $200 assuming the workers already own smart phones. Tests showed the system worked. The workers who used it, liked it. And they appreciated that the PPU can be worn in a variety of locations and warn them in whichever way they prefer. It was suggested this system be integrated with an intrusion alarm system to offer even more protection.

Read the complete study at: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4145