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When you spend most of your day operating heavy equipment, your office is the cab, its where you are in control, and you know what is happening. However, without good communication lines, it can be a very isolating place as well. Operators need the ability to concentrate of course, but isolation is not an answer, ensuring in-cab communications are as good as they can be has become very important, for a number of reasons. Here are some things that can be problematic if communications are not maintained correctly.
- Safety – We all hope it never happens to us, but accidents do occur, and no matter how minor they are an investigation will always examine communications leading up the incident. Good communication systems that are working correctly will always improve safety on site, both for heavy equipment operators and other workers on the site.
- Work Schedules – One of the costliest parts of any project is completion delays, missing deadlines and failing to meet work schedules. Heavy equipment operators really benefit here from better communications, as it can help individuals and teams work more efficiently. On large projects, even small improvements can add up to big-time savings and can be the difference between meeting and missing a deadline.
- Teamwork – Smooth running of any site relies on teamwork, that operators are where they are supposed to be at the right time. However, given the nature of the industry, few people get to work in the same team often enough to build that relationship, and so making sure the team functions properly each time is all about communication. Being able to adapt to a new environment and understanding how each group works is important for operators, and at the core of that is improved communications.
- A reliance on visual signals – Think of all the signals a heavy equipment operator has to take note of during any site operation to ensure the safety of themselves and others on site, there are hand signals, flashing lights, and flags used as guides or alarms, and this can lead to a problem known as alarm fatigue. This is where operators become overwhelmed by too many visual alarms and are unable to process them all. In-cab communications should not replace visual signals, but they complement visual alarms very well and can reduce the chance of an alarm being missed due to alarm fatigue.
- Stress – Operators isolated from the rest of the project in a cab without good communications can become stressed. Two-way communications allow questions to be asked and answered and operators to understand the project better and feel a part of the team instead of separate, helping reduce the stressfulness of the work.
There are many very good reasons to ensure cab communications are working well on any project, heavy equipment operators should always be in communication throughout any project.