Could wearable technology reduce accidents in the construction industry?
Towergate, Europe’s largest independent insurance broker, seems to think so; it has just started offering contractors discounts for using powered light safety wear supplied by Fhoss Technology.
The firm provides hi-vis clothing with reflective tape which includes a battery powered illuminated core. This means that unlike traditional hi-vis clothing, Fhoss safety wear illuminates without the need for ambient light.
Fhoss already has over 200 construction customers, including Transport for London, Network Rail, Skanska, Amey, and Balfour Beatty.
Chief executive Andy Kimitri thinks that number will only climb with Towergate’s discount offer.
”Towergate worked with us for a year, collecting data, to check if the product can reduce accidents - and they’re now satisfied that it can,” he said.
‘Slips, trips, and falls’ is one area where Fhoss safety wear has helped cut safety incidents, according to Kimitri.
“The lights at the bottom of the trouser legs glow, which means workers can see the area around where they are stepping,” he explained. “Whereas it’s much harder to see the ground you walk on if you only have a head torch.”
Kimitri said that Fhoss products are particularly beneficial in areas where there is little or no ambient light, or in bad weather conditions when visibility is poor.
“We’ve found that highway traffic tends to slow down because they can see workers from a greater distance if they are wearing our safety wear,” he added. “Network Rail has tested the visibility range, and found that workers can be seen from 1.5km away if they’re wearing Fhoss products.
“Balfour Beatty is now considering mandating our safety wear on their highways projects, and Aggregate Industries is thinking of making it compulsory in their quarries.”
On the back of the Towergate deal, Fhoss is planning a big push to promote its products to the wider construction industry.
How Balfour Beatty Rail has used Fhoss
In July 2013, Balfour Beatty Rail UK purchased 60 sets of Fhoss vests and trousers for workers carrying out railway track and pipe renewal.
“We are always looking for ways to enhance safety for our workers,” explained David White, Anglia logistics manager for Balfour Beatty Rail.
“Our workers were initially opposed to the idea; however, they trialled the products and realised that they were comfortable, easy to use, fitted well, and more importantly, made them stand out even when in areas of complete darkness.”
White said that he now regards it as “essential” for his workers to wear Fhoss.
“Before we introduced Fhoss products, our men wore head torches along with traditional PPE,” he said. “In certain conditions this combination is fine. However, it is not always ideal as it means that workers cannot be seen from behind, especially if there is low ambient light. When our men wear Fhoss, they stand out in all light conditions, at all times and from all angles.”
Balfour Beatty Rail has since extended the use of Fhoss safety wear to its site managers and crane controllers.