WJ’s ambition and forward thinking ethos for workforce welfare is driving the road marking industry forward, continually finding better and most importantly, safer ways of doing things.
Their latest innovation, a method of road stud installation designed to remove vulnerable operatives from the carriageway, is a significant leap forward. The bespoke design of the WJ Guardian system allows the complete road stud installation process to take place, whilst protecting operatives within an integrated safety cell of an 18-ton truck.
The UK utilises 12 million road studs on our national and local road network, all requiring maintenance or replacement at some point. Traditional methods of installation by hand or milling machine require operatives to be in the centre of the carriageway and therefore at risk of injury whilst working within live traffic conditions.
That risk varies from site to site but always with a need for safety zones, either stop/stop type traffic management or road closures, to comply with the regulatory requirements. The WJ Guardian method does not negate this need for safety zones but does significantly reduce the actual safe work zone required. The innovative method ensures that the operative does not need to stand and operate equipment from the opposite carriageway to the vehicle but instead they are protected within the vehicles unique safety cell as well as within a regulated safety zone.
The development provides designers with the potential to eliminate a substantial number of road closures and reduce disruption within the communities we serve whilst also improving the safety of workers and road users alike – which is good news!
Wayne Johnston, WJ Group Managing Director commented “Safety is fundamental to our business, that’s why we invest huge sums in research and development, we always strive for continuous improvement and I am totally committed to changing the way we work.”
WJ’s aims are in line with client needs and particularly in line with the Highways England aim that ‘no one should be harmed when travelling or working on the strategic road network.’ The Highways England approach includes a range of safety measures that is expected to result in noticeable improvements for road users and hopes are that it will contribute to achieving a 40% reduction in those killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the network, by the end of 2020.
At any one time, on the strategic road network, there are approximately 3,000 construction workers and 6,000 maintenance workers with traffic volumes of up to 4 million road users on a daily basis and total journeys travelled at 85 billion miles per year. According to Highways England the average fatality rate for those working on the road network is one of the highest amongst all sectors in the UK. Over the past ten years, 13 service provider workers and 2 Highways England traffic officers were killed while working on motorways and major A roads in England.
Because of that environment, whilst risk cannot be eliminated altogether, something needs to change and the driver for this latest WJ innovation has been the recognition of the vulnerability of their own workforce and the need to protect them as much as possible.
Consequently, WJ’s recent development focus has been on designing out risk through engineering and using their road marking vehicles as a protective safety barrier. The patent pending WJ Guardian road stud installation technology is phase 2 of a development project led by WJ’s engineering division in Elland West Yorkshire.
Using the collective experience and technical skills of the WJ Innovation Group, supported with Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, phase 1 involved the development of a lateral moving milling head so the installation vehicle would not need to straddle the centre of the road. CAD was used to simulate and validate the mechanical and physical properties of the design, ensuring that a legally compliant, robust and safe process was achieved even before component parts were manufactured and the truck was built.
Phase 2 involved the full design of a specialist installation vehicle with a protected control hub cell integrated within the chassis. It was important that a side under run device used fully complied with stringent requirements within the statutory Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) scheme. From this safe position, the road operative activates the drill, vacuums up debris, applies hot bitumen grout and places the road stud before the driver of the vehicle moves onto the next position.
The Guardian system can be used to install all types of road studs but, it was with this process in mind that WJ also developed the BSEN 1463 approved Allux prismatic road stud complete with stabilising shank. Allux was featured when WJ showcased the Guardian installation process at recent innovation days in Wellington, Somerset and at the University of Sterling in Scotland.
WJ enthusiastically engage and share best practice in this way with clients, the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) and other stakeholders to establish the best work-related health and safety practice. Many of WJ’s ideas have contributed to improvements across the highways industry.
George Lee, Chief Executive RSMA commented “We welcome this innovation in road stud installation and the pioneering approach by WJ which delivers a real step change in road worker safety. Anything that can keep our road marking member operatives safe is a blessing and we are proud that this progressive thinking is emanating out of our sector.”
Based on the success of the Guardian system WJ are in the process of retrofitting operator platforms to many of their standard studding rigs so that a measure of safety can be extended to other operatives.
Nonetheless, for both the road marking sector and highways maintenance generally we are still carrying out many processes in the same way as we always did several decades ago and whilst this latest WJ innovation is a real breakthrough, it is hoped that it will merely be a catalyst for further change in working practices.
WJ will be showcasing the Guardian road stud installation system at several forthcoming highway exhibitions with live demonstrations planned for the Seeing is Believing (SIB) event at Bruntingthorpe in November.
Highways SIB (Seeing is Believing) event director Neil Levett said: “We’re delighted that WJ will be showcasing its Guardian system at this year’s event. The safety of road workers is a top priority in the sector and any innovations that help keep operatives out of harm’s way should be welcomed by the industry. The Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA) will be leading a debate on road worker safety as part of the free to attend conference programme and I’d encourage attendees to take a look at WJ’s system in operation – putting theory into action is completely unique to the Highways SIB event.”
Whilst the highway industry focuses on improving our working practices, it is hoped that we can eventually influence driver behavior when passing through roadworks. Greater awareness and care would help keep both road users and road workers safe and that would be a real achievement.
It is therefore important too that innovations that keep traffic flowing, are communicated beyond our sector to our customers who share the same desire for improved road safety with the social and economic benefits that would be appreciated by all.