The hazards of working next to 40-tonne lorries doing 60mph, having to cross a busy carriageway, or handling hot materials while moving is driving innovation in the highway maintenance world to new levels – with much of the innovation coming from the very people who face those risks daily.
Highways England is also using designated funding, of ring-fenced money from the Road Investment Strategy to support and encourage more innovation from the industry to reduce incidents involving road users and road workers, improve the infrastructure, support sustainable operation, boost new and emerging technology and improve how data and information is captured and processed.
The government company’s number one imperative is safety: that ‘no one should be harmed when travelling or working on the strategic road network’. Their approach includes a range of safety measures that is expected to result in noticeable improvements for road users and contribute to achieving a 40% reduction in those killed or seriously injured on the network, by the end of 2020. Investing in innovation will help to make these positive changes now and in the future.
Visitors to Traffex Seeing Is Believing will see a large mobile barrier that physically protects roadworkers without shutting off lanes; and a lorry that can install road studs on the move while keeping workers safe. The two-day event this month, the only one of its kind, combines an indoor conference and outdoor showcasing for live road repairs and high-speed crash demonstrations.
Mobile barrier provides exceptional protection for both road workers and motorists and reduces the severity of incidents in and around work zones. It acts as a physical protection vehicle, absorbing impacts from moving vehicles if struck from the side. A lorry mounted crash cushion behind gives further protection from the rear and chapter 8 compliant lighting and signage provides ample visibility for all. Mobile Barrier possibilities are being developed to further reduce road worker exposure. The barriers originated in the United States where works zones incursions have led to several fatalities. Highways England and Kier are keen to adopt that learning and further enhance safety measures here in the UK, made possible with support from designated funds.
WJ Guardian System
The Guardian system allows the complete road stud installation process to take place, while protecting the roadworker in an integrated safety cell of an 18-tonne truck. It is a bespoke, award-winning design developed by WJ, a leading UK specialist road marking business.
As well as removing vulnerable roadworkers from the carriageway, the system reduces exposure to dust and debris, ensures safer handling of hot materials, increases efficiency and reduces cost. For road-users, it means traffic lanes are fully accessible.
The UK has approximately 12 million road studs on the national and local road network, all requiring maintenance or replacement at some point. Traditional methods of installation by hand or milling machine require roadworkers to be on the carriageway and therefore at risk of injury when working in live traffic. Normally, road stud installation requires a specialist lorry with a milling rig to straddle the centre line. This process requires a three-man crew with at least two vulnerable workers in the carriageway to carry out the installation.
The WJ Guardian innovative method means that workers do not need to stand and operate equipment, but are protected within the unique safety cell. It has reduced incidents and near misses by 100%.
Organiser of Traffex Seeing Is Believing, Adrian Tatum, says: “This is a really hands-on experience. We want local authorities, Police, roadwork contractors, emergency services and utilities to see for themselves the advances being made by the highway sector to keep traffic moving, fix roads quickly and efficiently, and above all, keep road users and workers safe. It is also a major opportunity for Highways England to meet new innovators with a view to applying the finest developments, products and services on the strategic road network.”
The event takes place at Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, on 27 & 28 June. Visitors will also see dramatic live crash demonstrations and witness the difference between a high-speed collision with a conventional lamp-post and a “crash-friendly” one.
“Dicing with death in the live carriageway is to be avoided at all costs for roadworkers and road operators aim to make the network safe, minimise lane closures and to reduce disruptions. These imperatives are driving genuine, effective innovation.”