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Safety with 20/20 sonar vision

Safety with 20/20 sonar vision

NZ Truck & Driver News

 December 2019   
A New Zealand company's workplace safety system, using sonar technology to reduce the risk of accidents in situations where people work around vehicles or moving machinery, is achieving dramatic results.

SonaSafe International says its proximity warning system is the most advanced in NZ and Australia – reducing accidents and near-misses, and giving workplace staff greater confidence at work.

The company says that the use of sonar has proven to be the most effective and accurate proximity control system across a range of conditions (inside or outside), according to market feedback from environments including freight warehouses, earthworks, roading and construction sites.

SonaSafe 20/20 combines proven technology of sonar-based proximity sensors with enterprise analytics to deliver "a world-first proximity awareness system." 

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A New Zealand company's workplace safety system, using sonar technology to reduce the risk of accidents in situations where people work around vehicles or moving machinery, is achieving dramatic results.
SonaSafe International says its proximity warning system is the most advanced in NZ and Australia – reducing accidents and near-misses, and giving workplace staff greater confidence at work.
The company says that the use of sonar has proven to be the most effective and accurate proximity control system across a range of conditions (inside or outside), according to market feedback from environments including freight warehouses, earthworks, roading and construction sites.
SonaSafe 20/20 combines proven technology of sonar-based proximity sensors with enterprise analytics to deliver "a world-first proximity awareness system." 
The system sees sonar pulse-emitting units installed on forklifts, vehicles or moving machinery – and having each member of staff or visitors in their vicinity wear personal detector unit tags (PDUs) that receive the sonar pulse.
When a pulse is detected, the system instantly calculates the distance between the vehicle and the PDU – and if it comes within a preset exclusion zone, the vehicle or machine operator is alerted.
A loudspeaker issues a spoken voice warning and a light on the speaker is also activated. The system can also be configured to turn off a vehicle's stereo system, turn on an external light or automatically stop the machine or vehicle.
As each PDU tag is unique, and the data is recorded centrally in real time, it's easy to immediately identify which staff member is involved…and may need retraining.
In trials and with early adopters of the system, SonaSafe says that companies have recorded a huge number of events that they would otherwise be unaware of. By highlighting the issues, the system has helped the companies make changes to improve safety.
NZ Post safety and wellbeing manager Arthur Preuss says his company is "very happy" with the system's performance: "We started it off in our tipper area. It's a confined space, with four conveyor belts and a number of people operating in that area – so the interaction between pedestrian and forklift was extremely high. If something was going to go wrong, it would be in that area. 
"In our first week, we noted 100 near-misses per day that could have possibly gone unreported. We implemented further training and correct operation in the workplace, reducing near-misses down to 10 notifications per day by the fourth week. 
"Because the PDU was allocated to the specific employees we could chat specifically to repeat offenders and by doing this we reduced near-misses to around 10 per week.
"The SonaSafe initiative drove a lot of changes and improvements and we've got to the point where there wasn't actually a need to have a forklift in that area, we substituted it for a different piece of equipment which is safer, therefore eliminating the issue.
"SonaSafe has helped us change people's attitude, and ultimately the culture."
SonaSafe believes that a recent spate of forklift deaths and a current review of the Health and Safety Act focusing on people working around vehicles and machines, means that that its system is necessary – in addition to other measures already in place.
SonaSafe 20/20 is currently marketed in NZ and Australia, but the company aims to improve workplace safety globally – in construction, mining, logging, roading, warehousing and port operations, along with other workplaces.  


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