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Ensuring Worksite Safety With Reliable Communications

Nov 05, 2018

Ensuring Worksite Safety With Reliable Communications

Learn how you can bolster worksite communications and eliminate cellular dead zones on your worksite.

Worksite communications is key to ensuring safety.

The most important factor related to worksite safety isn't equipment failures or lack of employee training - it is communication. A study by the Federal Aviation Administration reports only 30 percent of verbal communication is understood by both parties in the conversation, with most people only remembering the first and last things they are told.

Miscommunication is a very human failing, and one that only gets worse when dealing with unreliable wireless worksite communications. Construction, logging, mining, and other industries often face the challenge of weak cell signals, which hinder not only person-to-person communication, but also machine-to-machine interactions. Construction sites face the challenges of cellular dead zones in buildings. Logging, gas, and oil sites are often found in remote locations where a lack of proximity to cell phone towers provides weak signals. Mines sink deep into the earth, which acts as a natural dampener to cell phone signals. How best to resolve the problems of worksite communications?

The traditional solution: Two-way radios.

Two-way worksite radios provided solutions to worksite communications long before the popularity of mobile phones, but radios come with several disadvantages.

2-way worksite radios can communicate with multiple workers at once, provided they are all on the same frequency, so can be used to send emergency alerts. Most worksite radios are half-duplex, meaning a person must hold down the radio button to talk, then release the button to hear the other person's response. By necessity, this slows down communication, which can pose a threat in emergency situations where immediate responses are required.

Two-way radios are relatively bulky, and usually worn on the worker's belt. In noisy environments, this can lead to the employee not hearing important worksite communication.

When it comes to reliability, a number of factors negatively affect radio transmissions including weather, transmitter power, and distance. Buildings and other obstructions can interfere with transmission, as radio signals rely on "line of sight propagation" to send and receive signals.

Worksite radios may use VHF or UHF radio frequencies. Lower frequency signals fall into the VHF (very high frequency) or lower bands. Therefore, VHF or Very High Frequency is generally the best choice for outdoor use. For worksite communications on construction sites, the shorter wavelengths of the UHF frequencies or Ultra High Frequency are a better choice, as they are more likely to move unimpeded through small openings in buildings. Radio waves with frequencies above the UHF band fall into the super-high frequency (SHF) or microwave frequency range.

Wireless headphones and worksite communication.

Wireless cellular headphones are an alternative to traditional worksite radios. Headphones are usually full-duplex, allowing communication in both directions without the need for any button-pushing. Up to sixty workers can communicate through headphones on a configurable wireless system, and using wireless headphones is more like attending a conference call than using radios.

The worksite advantage here cannot be overstated. Emergency alerts, information, and instruction can be sent to all workers at once. Employees can check in quickly, identifying their location and current status with fewer delays.

Wireless headphones address an important aspect of worksite safety in loud environments. Noise-dampening headphones protect employees against ear-damaging noise without impairing their ability to hear messages they might miss using radios.

Machine to machine worksite communication.

In addition to human communication, the modern worksite has to consider the interactivity of smart devices. Machines and equipment are increasingly part of the Internet of Things. Smart phones, computers, security systems, safety equipment and other machinery need to be able to transmit data over a reliable network.

With a reliable network, equipment can be controlled remotely through phone apps and monitored for energy consumption and performance issues. With equipment designed to provide early warnings of danger, such as gas detectors in the oil and gas industry, an online connection makes it possible to send automated alerts to employees. Our direct-connect M2M cell boosters ensure consistent connectivity for robust cell data communication within all m2m connectivity set-ups.

Challenges to wireless worksite communication.

Implementing wireless work communication comes with its own set of challenges. A Wi-Fi network's signal extends in an invisible globe, with the wireless router in the sphere's center. Any device outside of the sphere cannot receive a signal.

Within the Wi-Fi range, the signal travels through free air space. Thick walls, such as those found in hospitals, can dampen the signal, creating dead zones where communication is not possible. Mine shafts are notorious for cellular dead zones. In such cases, signal boosters and strategically placed antenna can strengthen Wi-Fi signals.

 

Wireless communication usually operates with the assumption employees will use their own phones. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) carries with it the possibility of security vulnerabilities, as individual phone settings vary widely. Providing employees with guidelines to protect their phones from malware will help lower this risk. Employees should also understand the need to begin shifts with fully-charged phones. A dead battery effectively cuts an employee off from all worksite communications.

Wi-Fi networks are considered less secure than wired communication networks. Keeping your router firmware updated greatly reduces the risk of security breaches.

Signal boosters for wireless worksite communications.

Signal boosters increase the range and strength of your wireless signal, allowing the signal to penetrate dead zones and ensure a reliable network for worksite communications. The following four cellular signal boosters are all FCC-certified and well-suited for large-scale worksites.

SureCall Force 5 2.0

The SureCall Force5 2.0 provides coverage for indoor areas up to 25,000 square feet, but can reach coverage rates of 100,000 square feet under optimum conditions and by using antenna expansion kits. With a maximum downlink power of 17 dBm, the SureCall Force-5 2.0 can support up to 100 simultaneous users.

SureCall Fusion 5x 2.0

The SureCall Fusion5x 2.0 improves 3G and 4G speed for all USA cellular service providers, with automatic dB gain and attenuation for the best possible performance. As a standalone signal booster, the SureCall Fusion-5x 2.0 provides indoor coverage for tens of thousands of square feet. When combined with multiple amplifier kits, this already impressive coverage can be increased even further.

Wilson Pro 70

Self-optimizing features make for fast installation of the WilsonPro 70, which offers indoor cellular range up to 15,000 square feet. The signal booster amplifies weak phone signals, resulting in faster data transfers and fewer dropped calls.

Wilson Pro 70+ Select

Wilson Pro 70+ Select provides the most powerful signal boost Gain allowed by the FCC. The booster can be placed in buildings and offers a 5-band amplifier that boosts the signals of all mobile service carriers.

Each of these powerful signal boosters are compatible with add-on amplifiers and antenna to help your signal reach even the most persistent cellular dead zones, improving worksite communications and safety for everyone on site.


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  • My family has worked in the blue-collar sector (anyone remember what that is?) for generations and when I hear stories of my grandfather doing high-rise construction work without the safety features we take for granted, I’m blown away that he lived through it. I’m thankful we have better communication technology like the radios and headsets mentioned (as opposed to yelling to someone below). As this blog mentions, communication is one of those good practices on a construction site for safety. It’s good that there are boosters to optimize communication too. Unless you’ve worked there, you probably don’t know about the many safety hazards on a construction site.

    Jerry Henderson on
  • There really is no excuse for not having reliable and instant communication at the worksite. Safety at a construction site should be a priority, but everyone has heard about instances where even the most basic construction safety methods are ignored. One thing this blog brought up that concerns me is bring your own device situations. I don’t think many workplaces are aware of the factors involved with having people using a variety of devices on the job. As you said, there’s security issues like malware getting into a system and I’m sure this is just one concern. Any idea on how many worksites are using signal boosters for their wireless communication needs?

    Brad Gordon on

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