Raising safety standards in the field

13 March 2015

Gavan Murphy, Marketing Director - EMEA at Globalstar, examines the ways satellite communications can help professionals charged with overseeing major energy projects enhance the safety of staff and assets in remote areas.

Communication and consideration for the management, safety and wellbeing of employees working on major infrastructure projects in remote areas is paramount. Many of these sites are located in difficult-to-access locations with unreliable mobile phone networks, creating unique challenges. These can however be met with the latest communications technologies.

Team and remote worker safety

A sensible approach is to carefully study the communication options when assigning people to work in remote areas, and to consider the vulnerabilities created by either the environment and/or a potential break in communications.

Teams working on major energy infrastructure projects across rural, remote, and generally inaccessible areas, require a communications system they can trust, rain or shine, 24/7, and that enables isolated team members and site managers to have an always-on link between each other and with colleagues at headquarters.

To add to the safety imperative, access by the emergency services in hard-to-reach locations can be fraught with problems and may require an air ambulance. A communications system that can swiftly raise the alarm in an emergency situation and initiate a speedy rescue effort is therefore essential.

For many locations, a satellite-based communications solution offers the only viable communications lifeline.

When considering support for lone workers, a satellite-based GPS messenger, such as SPOT Gen3, is a highly reliable and cost-effective option. Look for a messenger that is easy to set up, easy to use, and has a number of important features. These include the ability to send custom messages, a 'check-in/OK' feature that sends 'peace of mind' updates back to team members, and most importantly, an emergency button that can be used to summon the emergency services in locations where other communications devices may not work. The SPOT Gen3 has already been used for over 3,400 rescues worldwide, averaging one rescue a day.

Team communications and welfare

Satellite phones are another important piece of the communications jigsaw, giving remote workers a convenient and reliable way to keep in touch with colleagues working at different parts of the site or back at head office. If anyone encounters a problem with an important piece of equipment or needs a spare part, this can be communicated immediately, whatever the environment and however remote the location, helping to minimise downtime.

On-site workers can also use the phone for project management - to chase suppliers, discuss progress, and keep schedules on track for the duration of the project, helping to bring it in on budget. The important attributes to consider in a satellite phone service are crystal-clear voice quality, a rugged, compact handset and long battery life.

A satellite phone boosts morale and welfare among remote workers who are working away from home for extended periods of time and need an easy way to call friends and family. There are now a range of affordable pre-pay options that are ideal for seasonal remote workers where it doesn't make sense to be tied to an annual contract. For example, Globalstar facilitates the use of pre-paid credit on already activated post-paid Globalstar phones, such as the company's GSP-1700 phone, meaning that contractors can loan work-registered handsets to colleagues or friends without having to pick up the tab for workers' calls home.
Keeping tabs on valuable equipment

Monitoring expensive equipment such as excavators and trucks and guarding against theft also creates challenges when out of mobile network range. Keeping tabs on these assets - whether they are left on-site for extended periods or, in the case of infrastructure projects, are moved frequently - is important to ensure projects are kept on track and to budget.

Such monitoring demands reliable communications that works where there is no phone network. To track valuable equipment, such as cranes, excavators and trucks, it is now as easy as attaching a small, rugged, satellite-based GPS tracking device such as SPOT Trace. The device automatically notifies plant owners or site managers via email or text when movement is detected anytime, anywhere. This is particularly useful for rolling infrastructure projects, such as dam construction, where managers back at base can pinpoint the exact location of an asset, based on GPS coordinates, on a smartphone or online and in near real-time, using Google Maps.

It is also an effective anti-theft device. A sensor on the device immediately triggers a movement alert to be sent to the designated contact, via text or email, when it detects that the asset has moved. GPS coordinates can also be set up to be sent at regular intervals from the device. A key feature to look for is an automated power-off alert, which continues to send GPS coordinates every day, helping site managers/plant owners to recover lost or stolen assets.

Look for an affordable GPS tracker that has a long battery life - making it ideal for tracking construction equipment left on site for extended periods; is compact in size; and features a rugged design that makes it durable enough to be mounted practically anywhere, and discreetly, out of sight of potential thieves.

In summary

For energy and construction companies and contractors working in rural and remote areas, getting the right communications infrastructure in place is vital. An affordable and reliable satellite communications service that underpins worker health and safety and keeps tabs on valuable equipment really is invaluable and can even save lives.

For more details on Globalstar, please visit http://eu.globalstar.com/en/

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