Lone Worker Safety System

In the past year MainPower launched a two-fold system to ensure its workers are safe when out in the field alone. Both initiatives deliver life-saving solutions.

MainPower delivers electricity to the North Canterbury and Kaikoura regions, covering 11,180 square-kilometres. The firm has 180 office and field staff to service a distribution area that is predominately rural and remote, with variations in seasons and a number of microclimates.

The company initiated an inter-departmental review of its lone worker system in 2013, driven by development of the Electricity Engineers’ Association (EEA) Safety Manual and by an incident that reinforced the urgency to improve the lone worker safety systems and processes.

A required scope of work now involves literally asking the question “for safety’s sake, is this a two- person job?” If it is deemed that there is a high risk to safety when working alone on a specific activity, an additional person is allocated to the task or the task is delayed until such risk can be eliminated.

The review also resulted in an update to technology support, which saw new radio equipment incorporating automatic vehicle location capability and emergency call functionality progressively being installed in MainPower’s vehicle fleet.

The ‘Lone Worker Safety System’ is being driven by the firm’s Assets and Operations Teams and has a project cost of over $120,000. The first three of 20 vehicles have been active since early 2015.

A waterproof Tait hand-held device is mounted on the dashboard beside the driver of the vehicle. When taken in the field, the device automatically links to the vehicle’s VHF radio, resolving accessibility issues with the cellular network in the region. The radio system provides coverage over the majority of the company’s network area and has a range of 1 to 2-kilometres from the vehicle.

Two key functions make the technology a lifesaving solution. The ‘Man Down’ tilt switch means that when the device tilts more than 60 degrees, the radio initiates an emergency call to the company’s control centre. The control centre can then instantly access the worker’s identification and GPS location.

This emergency call function can also be manually activated by pressing a button. The microphone that is activated when the emergency call is sent out allows the control centre to pick up on speech and any background plus ensures the worker that help is on the way.

The ‘Lone Worker’ function also includes an automatic ‘check-in prompt’ with a select time period and an alert. The worker is meant to reset the feature and if this is not done an emergency call is activated. This means that if a worker is unresponsive the call is sent out.

MainPower says the success of the programme will be measured through the actual health, safety and wellbeing of its lone workers and positive feedback from its employees.

The Health and Safety Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by The Electricity Networks’ Association