Step away from the machine

Remote-controlled equipment keeps workers out of harm’s way

Safety Article September 26, 2003
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In heavy construction and demolition there is always a
certain amount of risk to workers. 
Some common causes included flying debris, poor visibility, collapsing
material, falls, inhalation of noxious fumes and exposure to vibration and

electric remote-controlled equipment into a construction fleet can help
minimize dangerous situations while adding value and peace of mind.

The radio 4-1-1

Cordless remote-controlled equipment operates via radio communication
through a control box harness worn by the operator. The control box sends a
digital data stream to the machine where it is transferred into analog signals
that control the various valves and servos on the machine. The radio signal
eliminates the need for the operator to be tethered to the machine during

Additionally, some remote-controlled equipment includes an
added safety feature embedded into its radio signal to prevent possible overlap
when several remote-controlled machines are on one site. Manufacturers will
assign a unique identity code to each machine.

When the digital signal is transmitted from the control box
to the machine, it contains a series of bits. Every third or fourth bit
contains the identity code for that particular machine. If the identity code is
missing, the machine will shut down.

Stand over there

When working overhead or underfoot with breakers,
jackhammers or other demolition tools, there is always a possibility for flying
and falling debris. Projectile objects injure eyes, puncture skin and can cause
serious bruising and bleeding. However, when standard equipment is replaced
with remote-controlled machines, operators are allowed to stand a safe distance
from any possible debris danger.

In addition, radio range allows operators to gain maximum
visibility of the work area. Sitting in the cab of a standard piece of
equipment often limits line of sight. With remote-controlled machines,
operators can position themselves a safe distance away from any falling/flying
debris while maintaining an optimal view of the project.

Excavation and trenching applications are common practices
in construction zones. However, they also pose a very real cave-in threat to
workers using equipment down in the holes and trenches. There is no amount of
protective apparel that can save a worker from several cubic yards of earth
collapsing on top of them. Keeping equipment operators out of deep holes and
trenches through the use of remote-controlled equipment allows for a much safer

Long-term effects

Working with gas- or diesel-powered machines in underground
and tunnel construction zones without proper ventilation can cause the
often-overlooked respiratory injuries. The absence of gas and diesel exhaust
fumes allows for a cleaner air environment and reduces respiratory problems
among operators.

Vibration and noise are inevitable with most pneumatic
hand-held tools. In addition, hearing loss from constant exposure to excessive
noise is a problem. Electric remote-controlled equipment eliminates any such
vibration and noise.

Construction and demolition workers face many obstacles and
possible injuries due to construction zone dangers. Manufacturers are answering
this need by producing equipment that removes operators from areas with
immediate danger.

About the author: 
Lindgren is an after-sales manager for Brokk Inc., Monroe, Wash.
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