TimberWest has a number of very large mobile machines working at its sort yards and logistics facilities. They unload trucks, transfer logs within the facility and move logs shipside for loading. When you see these machines in motion, the sites look like a well-orchestrated ballet. Every machine operator knows his or her part in the dance, and every member of the ground crew understands the importance of maintaining the prescribed machine/human separation.

When TimberWest learned of new proximity sensor technology that could help avoid unplanned human/machine interactions, the company was eager to try it out. The new technology adds a secondary layer of caution to the standard back-up alarm on every TimberWest industrial machine, from mail delivery trucks to wheel loaders.

The company’s logistics facility at Crofton, known as the South Island Logistics Facility, was chosen to pilot the technology. The sensor technology was mounted on wheel loaders for this pilot project. The sensor is triggered by proximity to a tiny RFID chip that can be applied to the hard hats of the ground crew. The RFID technology is similar to the technology that allows you to pay by tapping your credit card, but it works across longer distances.

When the sensor is triggered by the RFID technology, a distinct alarm will sound both inside and outside of the operator’s cab. This unique alarm is intended to warn both the machine operator and the ground crew.

When the machine arrived, Doug Scott, an operator with TimberWest contractor Spuzzum, was the first to trial it. He liked that the loader loudly sounds the unique beeping alarm both inside and outside of the cab. “The thing is, I am sitting in a cab about 8 feet above the ground. When you back-up a machine this size the rear window doesn’t allow you a full view of what is on the ground below. While we have clear rules that prevent ground crew being around the machine, the sensor makes a world of difference in helping make sure there are no mistakes.”

“This technology is a home run,” says Jeff Zweig, president and CEO of TimberWest. “With this type of innovation, and others that are emerging, we can expect a step-change improvement in safety performance. There is nothing more gratifying than that.”

Learn more about this technology and TimberWest’s use of back-up cameras in the next issue of The Working Forest.