Heightened risk? Hit the Highway!

Of all the sectors which SMI support, there’s no question but that our Highways operatives have one of the most challenging roles when it comes to staying safe. National figures show Highways & Utilities casualties are at their lowest level for over forty years. However, studies rank this sector as the sixteenth most hazardous occupation in the UK.

Given this, our Highways & Utilities partners require more effective PPE and Workwear than ever before. The requirement to stay visible, comfortable and safe while undertaking front-line services is paramount.

However, the level of risk faced by our operatives in the sector may soon be set to reduce, with the piloting of an innovative new approach to highways build and maintenance.

Dutch courage to innovate

According to a recent report by Highways Industry, a UK-based firm (WJ Group) has teamed up with ACB, in a joint venture to pilot a new road worker safety approach across Europe, starting with Intertraffic in Amsterdam.

The joint venture has pioneered the new project in order to address some of the most common hazards for Highways operatives, particularly when it comes to undertaking road markings. Their partnership has dedicated itself to solving some of these issues, all with a view to remove Highways operatives from busy carriageways through innovations in terms of technology and approach.

The result of this partnership has led to the development of the ‘WJ Guardian’ – a vehicle which has been developed to install road studs automatically, removing the requirement for skilled operatives responsible for applying the studs along some of Europe’s most populous roads and highways. The vehicle keeps operatives safe from harm, providing an integrated ‘safety cell’ housed within 18 tonnes of effective protection.

The WJ Guardian reportedly enables the entire road stud installation process to be conducted from within the vehicle, replacing the risky deployment of milling machines in the centre of the road, which needs to be done by hand. Operatives currently deploying the traditional method are highly vulnerable during the process, and will welcome the new innovation that could replace unsafe working practices, for good.

Transforming safety across 12 million installations

In the UK, an estimated twelve million road studs are currently used across the local and national highways network – each one of which has potentially posed a hazard to operatives responsible for their installation and upkeep. While the safety afforded by road studs is not in doubt, for keeping drivers aware in poor visibility and inclement weather, currently the risk to Highways operatives can sometimes seem too big a price to pay, for increasing road safety.

With the advent of the WJ Guardian, the process of installing safety studs is also expedited, which will improve the duration for which safety zones are required or roads closed for renovation. The Joint Venture partners also state that the vehicle will reduce the level of distraction which operatives in high-vis may cause for drivers, through a less obtrusive process of installation – further enhancing the broader safety benefits of their innovation.

Through pioneering work on this scale to address the risks faced by our Highways operatives daily in their challenging roles, the time could have come when the industry evolves, providing enhanced safety and security for the teams on our roads, each day.