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forklift with red halo zone

In industries centered around shipping, receiving, and manufacturing, constant activity is a given. Whether it’s called havoc, commotion, bedlam, mayhem, furor, or frenzy, there is one certainty. Things are always in motion. The fascinating aspect of these industries is that the constant motion is all organized.

One factor assisting in keeping that organization is a proximity alert system. These systems keep employees safe while they navigate warehouses and work sites around the world.

The following is a comprehensive breakdown of how it all works.

Overview: Proximity Alert Systems 101

When exploring proximity alert systems, it’s natural to have these common questions in mind: 

What does a proximity alert system do? 

Proximity alert systems are specialized tools designed to avert accidents in a range of settings. These settings include industrial, medical, and construction environments. At their core, they serve as asset protection devices.

How do proximity detection systems function?

Proximity alarms detect obstacles, pedestrians, and hazards that could harm people, equipment, or merchandise at work sites. 

While these questions and answers give a bare minimum understanding of these systems, selecting the right one requires more advanced knowledge of their intricacies and capabilities.

What are Proximity Alert Systems?

What’s in a name? A proximity alert system by any other name would mean just the same.

At the heart of any company lies its assets: employees, equipment, products, and services. A disruption of either element can have major consequences on a company’s sustainability. When looking for the ideal system, you will come across a variety of names, including: 

  • Proximity warning system
  • Collision avoidance system
  • Object detection system
  • Anti-collision system
  • Safety warning system

There are more depending on the specific application or industry.

Though the names can be interchangeable, the type of system and technology used to detect hazards can differ significantly. As you navigate the options, remember that beneath the name lies a wide variance of technologies and capabilities.

forklift accident with injured worker

Different Types of Proximity Warning Systems

Proximity warning systems come in various types. Each one of them uses distinct methods to provide alerts. While many share similarities in that they use light and sound for warnings, their approach to hazard detection is different.

For instance, some types of systems include:

HIT-NOT® Proximity Detection (extremely dependable and precise)

  • Detection method: Relies exclusively on magnetic fields to detect objects
  • Applications: Magnetic field generators attached to heavy machinery; personal alarm devices worn by pedestrians
  • Negatives: Needs to be correctly set up and configured

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)-Based Systems

  • Detection method: Uses light to detect objects
  • Applications: Emit laser beams that bounce off objects to calculate distance
  • Negatives: Limited range in adverse weather and interference from other sources

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems

  • Detection method: Radio frequency technology is used to track objects
  • Applications: Asset and inventory trackers; contactless access control
  • Negatives: Limited range and poor line of sight limit tracking ability 

Camera-Based Systems (provides visual detection)

  • Detection method: Utilizes cameras and vision to identify objects
  • Applications: Commonly found in vehicles, surveillance cameras, drowsiness detection in commercial vehicles, as well as parking guidance systems
  • Negatives: Privacy concerns; affected by weather conditions

Wi-Fi Based Systems

  • Detection method: “Wireless Fidelity” (wi-fi) radio waves alert to hazards
  • Applications: Tags, routers, and chips that detect the presence of hazards
  • Negatives: Limited range; interference, and security concerns

Ultra-Wideband Systems

  • Detection method: Radio pulses/waves seek out hazards
  • Applications: Robotics, badges, and tags to enable location and object detection
  • Negatives: Limited range; reliability

Acoustic-Based Systems

  • Detection method: Sound waves help detect objects
  • Applications: Sonar systems often incorporate ultrasonic sensors
  • Negatives: Noise sensitivity, limited range, and precision

In 2020, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that “struck-by” and “caught-between” injuries are two of OSHA’s “fatal four” leading causes of workplace fatalities. These statistics underscore the value of proximity detection systems.

Who needs a Proximity Alert System?

Industries with considerable risk of collision between heavy machinery, objects, and people benefit the most from proximity alert systems. They include:

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Manufacturing
  • Warehousing/Logistics
  • Utilities
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Amusement/Theme parks

Specific job titles that can benefit from the implementation of proximity alert systems include:

  • Forklift operator
  • Factory worker
  • Truck driver
  • First responder
  • Medical equipment tech
  • Ship captain
  • Railroad engineer
  • Theme park ride operator
  • Security guard

Furthermore, several types of vehicles and equipment become safer when incorporating alert systems. These include:

  • Drones
  • Industrial robots
  • Medical equipment
  • Personal alarm devices
  • Forklifts
  • Cranes
  • Bulldozers
  • Trucks
large crane truck

Benefits of Proximity Alert Systems

By no means are the following benefits meant to be an exhaustive list. Extra advantages depend on the workplace and how the systems are utilized.

  1. Enhanced safety: Systems present real-time accident prevention and hazard mitigation.
  2. Money saver: Reduced accidents, equipment damage, and downtime justify the initial investment.
  3. Morale Boost: Employees appreciate investments in their well-being.
  4. Enhanced productivity: Improved worker focus + enhanced safety = increased productivity.
  5. Versatility: Most systems can be adapted to work together for various environments and operational needs.
  6. Data Analysis: Some systems provide data for safety pattern analysis.

The NSC 2020 safety technology in the workplace survey of 500 employers and 1,000 workers from safety-sensitive industries shows 61% reported being exposed to struck-by risks. Thirty-three percent said proximity sensors would help lessen or remove their personal risk of serious workplace injury or fatality.

warehouse workers with boxes

How to Choose a Proximity Alert System?

Consider these factors when selecting a system:

  • Environment (indoor/outdoor)
  • Equipment type (e.g., heavy machinery)
  • Customization options (alert levels and warnings)
  • Budget constraints
  • Compatibility with existing systems (how it will fit with current fleet management and surveillance systems)

The bottom line? Make an informed decision. Evaluate different options, request demonstrations, and consult with experts.

You should also consider that in today’s dynamic industries, where motion and safety are paramount, proximity alert systems are needed guardians of well-being and productivity. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. 

warehouse shelves with a forklift

SynTech has over 40 years of experience providing training and equipment to work sites. We are the #1 sales and service provider of the HIT-NOT® proximity detection system.

If you’d like to make sure you are providing top-notch protection for your work site, call the
knowledgeable SynTech team at (256) 571-5024. 

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