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Industry | 14 Mar 2024

How to Prevent Incursions in the Highways Industry: New Ideas, Initiatives, and Technology

How to Prevent Incursions in the Highways Industry: New Ideas, Initiatives, and Technology
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A car breaks through the cones separating the live-traffic lane from the roadworks, narrowly missing a road-worker. At another worksite – two men in a Ford Transit Custom ignore the traffic management system, force their van through the cones, and, as they pass by, abuse the road-workers.

There have been deaths and injuries caused by similar incursions – where cars driven by members of the public or emergency services break through restrictions and enter the work zone.

And with an average of 300 incursions reported every month, our roadworkers and TM managers often risk their lives in order to keep Britain moving. 

People without links to the highways industry rarely think about the issue. But that’s not a luxury available to those collectively responsible for trying to make a sometimes challenging, though rewarding, industry safer. The good news is that the level of industry engagement on the topic is high: best practices are constantly iterated on and improved, inspired by new ideas and approaches.

A lot of this good work comes from the Incursions Working Group (IWG). They and other industry leaders are pioneering multiple efforts to increase awareness and to look at the issue of incursions from continually fresh perspectives.

    (Video courtesy of Safety Hub) 

    Helpful Initiatives – ‘Go Home Safe and Well’

    Building awareness is key. ‘Habituation’ is an issue: operatives who have worked alongside high-speed traffic for a long time begin to underestimate the risks involved. The same is true for the public. Collected hours of driving alongside roadworks makes the public underestimate the danger that they pose workers.

    Some headway was made in 2019 with the release of 13 short films to build awareness around the issue. The videos attempted to show the effects of incursions on families, to shine a light on unacceptable aggression and violence (including the story of a worker stabbed by an angry road user), and to encourage workers to report incidents more thoroughly. It’s a shame that so much effort is required to establish that incursions are not an acceptable feature of the highways industry.

    The IWG also give webinars describing their efforts to improve compliance, to reduce the number of employees working directly alongside, or on, live carriageways, and to develop useful new engineering solutions.

    It’s fascinating that alongside all these efforts instances of incursions seemed, for a while, to have been increasing. But one likely explanation is the positive impact that measures to increase awareness were having: workers were likely reporting instances more.

    Although the latest available figures offer a more promising outlook, Covid has skewed the data somewhat, and the requirement to maintain – and improve – standards is ever-present. Every year the UK welcomes an average of nearly 750,000 new drivers onto the road. The need for continued education speaks for itself.

    (Video courtesy of Safety Hub)

    Best practice 

    When it comes to best practice, the headline acts seem obvious – even if these efforts toward mitigation only really target the impatient and greedy sides of human nature:

    • During the pitching process, road safety and its cost implications need to be respected
    • During planning and preparation, TM Managers and designers need to be given sufficient time to do their job to the appropriate standard

    Then there are the decisions made by traffic management designers. Work-area layout needs to be considered from the perspective of the public.

    • Signs must be clear. Drivers need to understand what’s going on and what’s expected of them
    • Messaging should feature short, legible information that is staggered between well-spaced, multiple signs
    • Signs need to be visible, with consideration given to risks posed by things like ever-changing foliage – especially in spring and summer

    The aim is, of course, to eliminate confusion and mistakes – and to avoid any chance of high-speed traffic slowing down in an unmanaged and dangerous way.

     Keeping on Rolling On

    At the recent RSMA Annual Conference, Keith Smith, Group Chief Engineer of Chevron TM, illustrated his and Chevron’s expertise in traffic management by sharing some of their latest innovations.

    The dream is to have empty carriageways that allow road workers to set up and work unimpeded. And Chevron’s innovative EMCC approach (Enhanced Mobile Carriageway Closure) makes this possible under certain scenarios.

    Moving vehicles equipped with signs drive in front of and control traffic. They manage road closures, allowing for:

    • The creation of a temporary and flexible traffic-free environment, enabling the easy installation, maintenance, switching, or removal of traffic management objects
    • Faster install time of the worksite
    • Less overall disruption

    When Chevron trialled the approach, in 1200 instances, only five incursions blotted the public’s metaphorical driving-report book. These misdemeanours were punished using footage from CCTV built into the vehicle. And workers were kept safe by alarms from the incorporated incursion warning system.

    Using Re-flow to Streamline HSE Compliance

    Unoptimized processes waste time and cause frustration. These problems can lead to forms being skipped or poorly completed, and cause a headache-inducing ping pong ball of communication to bounce between worksites and offices.

    Re-flow is a comprehensive field management software solution that established highway industry partners are already using to avoid these issues, and to increase safety standards on site.

    Through Re-flow’s mobile app, workers have online and offline access to:

    • Site designs and briefings, so busy TM managers can ensure their instructions are followed to the minutest of details
    • Toolbox talks and a job-specific file database of training videos, manuals, PDFs, and instructions gettable on their phones at the tap of a button

    There are automation processes too, where conditions can be baked into the app to enforce compliance:

    • Mandatory completion of forms – revitalising standards, and safeguarding workers from unnecessary risk
    • Dynamic risk assessments with notably intelligent formulas (seeing Re-flow in action is the best way to explore how useful this can be) and speed-enhancing autofill
    • Notification triggers that automatically ping management for whatever reason, halting work and making sure action is taken swiftly

    Smart digital systems, configurable to a business’s specific needs, mean no detail or data point is missed:

    • Easily accessible information from near-miss forms can be used to help improve working practices.
    • Data can be collated, searched for, and reviewed, and solutions found for common incidents.

    Full records of incidents, including time, date, location, and parties involved give an instant overview of what happened.

    Managing compliance through Re-flow is hassle free. And we’ve gone into more detail about how field management software can arm businesses with powerful HSE solutions over here – all part of a future-proofing, efficiency-boosting game plan.

    After all, a happier workplace is one where safety standards are more likely to be upheld.

    Follow the hashtag on Twitter/X, #RespectOurRoadworkers for the latest posts on this broad topic.

    Demo to qualify for a free trial or call 01392 574002 today.

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