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Safety first at seaports and airports

Henry Morgan at Brigade Electronics Canada, a global leader in vehicle safety technology, explains why focusing on safety at busy seaports and airports is helping to save lives.


Airports and seaports are challenging places to work. Operations continue in all weathers throughout the night and workers are often under pressure to carry out their roles swiftly. It’s no wonder that working at busy ports, both marine and air, is high risk. 


Keeping port operations running efficiently involves significant numbers of contractors and subcontractors who affect each other’s services. These include hauliers, harbor authorities and stevedore firms for seaports; and at airports, catering trucks, passenger and airport support vehicles, travelling at varying speeds and directions. The impact of a vehicle hitting an aircraft could be substantial, causing delays and costing companies a significant amount to rectify.


Port hazards


The majority of accidents at seaports occur in the cargo handling area, and 35% of these involve vehicles. Both seaports and airports are extremely busy environments, with multiple vehicle movements, workers and passengers mingling together. Hazards include:


  • Pedestrians and objects being struck due to vehicle blind spots.
  • Inability to see co-workers due to adverse weather and nighttime conditions.
  • Reversing accidents.
  • Workers wearing ear defenders unable to hear approaching vehicles.
  • Electrically-powered vehicles that make it difficult for people to hear them approaching.


In one airport incident in the USA in 2017, a 48-year-old worker was painting lines on a runway when he was struck and killed by a vehicle. At the UK’s Manchester Airport last August, a catering van driver had to be cut from his vehicle and was rushed to hospital with leg injuries when the van he was driving was in collision with an airport tug. In Turkey, 17 people were injured when two buses carrying workers across Instanbul’s New Airport site collided.


Meanwhile, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) singled out on-site traffic accidents as a serious problem for marine terminals. From 2005 to 2012, OSHA recorded 88 fatalities at seaports, 52 of which were the result of transportation accidents.


Safety solutions


Vehicle safety experts, such as Brigade Electronics, are working with airports and seaports to retrofit safety systems onto vehicles such as tugs, vans, coaches, reach stackers, tippers and catering trucks. Vehicle safety camera systems, such as Brigade’s Backeye®360, can completely eliminate blind spots and provide a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings.


Ultrasonic sensors are also ideal for use in confined spaces or maneuvering at low speeds. The driver is alerted to obstacles or people close to the vehicle, whether moving or stationary. Ultra-proximity sensors provide audible and/or in-cab warning informing of distance, while an optional external speaking alarm can be added to alert pedestrians that a vehicle is turning.


Electric vehicles used to transport passengers, luggage and trolleys around the airport are another example of potential accident risk. Tonal alarms fail to solve the problem as the beeping of an approaching vehicle is lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy airport environment. Tonal alarms are difficult to locate making it hard to determine which vehicle is moving. Multi-frequency reversing alarms, which use white sound, solve this problem with a safer, more effective alternative and can even be heard when wearing ear protection. The concentrated ‘ssh ssh’ sound is contained to the danger zone and is easily located, making it safer for pedestrians.


A safer future


With the safety of both workers and members of the public high on the agenda, it’s clear that vehicle safety systems have a key role to play in the challenge to prevent accidents and save lives.


Image caption: Safety first at seaports and airports.

About Us

Brigade Electronics is a worldwide market-leading provider of safety devices and solutions for commercial vehicles and machinery.


Brigade’s products work to reduce the risk of collisions and protect vulnerable road users by minimising vehicle blind spots and assisting drivers to manoeuvre safely.


Founded in 1976 by Chris Hanson-Abbott OBE, Brigade Electronics introduced the very first reversing alarm to Europe and has been at the forefront of championing vehicle and plant safety ever since, pioneering new products, and developing and patenting new technology.


Brigade’s product portfolio includes 360-degree camera systems, camera monitor systems, White Sound® reversing alarms, obstacle detection sensors, obstacle detection radar and digital recorders.


Harriette Conroy


PMW Communications Ltd.