The health and safety benefits of digital two-way radios
With health and safety being the main focus for many organisations operating in harsh and hazardous environments, especially mining, construction, and oil and gas, having communication devices designed specifically for these environments is essential to improving worker health and safety, and avoiding and preventing accidents.
Despite this, some organisations still choose to use mobile devices or legacy communication solutions – either unaware of the benefits that digital two-way radios can provide or trying to keep operational costs low.In this blog, we’ll take a look at the health and safety benefits of digital two-way radios, as well as why they are significantly better than mobile phones for communication on sites.
Keep track of operatives with real-time communication
Unlike mobile phones which are designed primarily for one-to-one communication, digital two-way radios are designed for real-time, operation-wide communication.
The usability of mobile phones is inherently constrained in many ways, not least the quality of the network signal. From faulty connections to inconsistent and choppy audio, reliance on standard mobile equipment is high risk in hazardous environments.
To communicate using digital two-way radios, operators just need to set their radio to the right frequency (channel) and press the button to transmit. Any number of operators can be on a single frequency, making it an effective and scalable option for organisations in fast-paced and/or harsh and hazardous environments. Furthermore, noise-cancelling headphones and boom microphones can be used in conjunction with digital two-way radios to ensure crystal clear audio quality and consistency, ensuring warnings and information are heard clearly.
Robust and designed for harsh and hazardous environments
Another important consideration when it comes to choosing communications devices is whether they are robust and designed for harsh and hazardous environments.As per the two European Directives for controlling explosive atmospheres – ATEX Directive 99/92/EC (ATEX 137) and Directive 94/9/EC (ATEX 95) – it is mandatory that organisations operating in potentially explosive environments use equipment which is ATEX certified. These devices must be manufactured using high standards to reduce or eliminate any risk of generating the tiniest spark or heat from the device – this includes the design of the battery and the housing of the device – and must be explosion proof.
With this considered, standard issue mobile devices and tablets are simply not practical for any organisation looking to ensure worker safety. These devices have a tendency to generate a lot of heat and if the battery fails and causes a spark or fire, in an explosive environment that could result in a chain reaction leading to catastrophic damage. In addition, these devices are susceptible to dust (causing loss of function) and water (causing sparks).
However, by utilising ATEX certified radios, operator health and safety can be maximised. These devices operate at a lower power output (eliminating the chance of sparks or heat being produced by the device) and are IP67 compliant – meaning they are protected from dust and allow immersion in water.
Less distraction means fewer accidents
Mobile phones have too many unnecessary and needlessly complex features that can distract users.
In a construction environment, for example, an operator could be using a mobile device whilst driving a forklift or bulldozer – they might be making a call or sending a text message to another colleague on site – and in the process drive into someone (causing injury or death) or hit infrastructure under construction causing a catastrophic collapse (again, causing injury or death). Both instances can be avoided through portable or mounted two-way radios with one-touch functionality. These radios can be mounted in vehicles and a button installed to the dashboard or steering wheel which the driver can press to communicate. Operators can also connect wireless Bluetooth headsets to specific devices to allow hands-free operation and communication. The end result is improved health and safety as less distraction means fewer accidents.
Digital two-way radios come with health and safety features as standard
Organisations operating in harsh and hazardous environments must ensure that communication devices are equipped with health and safety features to help keep workers protected. To satisfy these requirements, digital two-way radios come equipped with GPS and lone worker functionality. More high-end devices offer a man down function. The lone worker function essentially allows operatives to put their radio into ‘lone worker’ mode and for managers/supervisors to periodically check in with that worker at set intervals. The radio will beep and the operator just needs to press the push-to-talk button to confirm they are safe. If the button is not pressed after a set period of time, an alarm will be issued to control to signal an emergency.Man down, on the other hand, is typically used in high-end radios. It’s essentially a tilt switch which uses motion sensors to detect and send out an alarm if an operative is not moving, moving erratically or if the radio is positioned in a different angle for a period of time. Before an alert is used, a signal will be sent to the user of the device informing them that an alarm is about to go off – this will prevent false alarms. Once it goes off, the alarm will be issued to the supervisor/manager letting them know that the operator is in trouble.
For organisations to maximise health and safety in fast-paced and/or harsh and hazardous environments, the acquisition of two-way radios is absolutely essential. Not only are these devices more durable and designed specifically for such business applications, they also come with a host of health and safety features to keep operatives safe on the ground and can be rapidly deployed to provide robust and consistent communication.
At SFL we have over 20 years of working with and supplying state-of-the-art digital two-way radio systems and are one of the largest two-way radio suppliers in the UK.
We offer a diverse range of two-way radios, including advanced Motorola radio solutions, allowing organisations to effectively connect, coordinate and communicate with their workforce.
Our technicians can develop and deploy bespoke radio solutions fit to business requirements – whether that means ultra-thin portables or extra-tough mobile Motorola radios with industry-leading data applications – and integrate these solutions seamlessly into your communications infrastructure.
If you want to find out more, click here.