Using Technology to Protect Cajun’s Most Important Asset – Its Employees

The world of construction naturally places human beings and heavy equipment in close proximity, but at Cajun, team members deploy best-in-class technology – some of it developed in house – to ensure employees work in the safest possible conditions and the job gets done to the highest degree of quality.

One of the most powerful examples of this is Cajun’s Invisible Barricade System, created by Deep Foundations business unit’s Equipment Technology Manager, Lynne Ficklin. The system ensures workers remain outside of a crane or other equipment’s swing radius. While federal OSHA standards call for employers to install protection systems around cranes to keep employees from being struck or crushed, Cajun took extra precaution, creating an alert system that keeps its workers even further outside of the potentially fatal swing radius. This invisible, trackable barricade system works in conjunction with a traditional physical barricade system that also marks the crane’s swing radius on the job site.

The inspiration for the Invisible Barricade System came when Cajun acquired a job from a contractor that had experienced a fatality on a job site. This event occurred when a crane struck their employee who was positioned between the counterweights and some staged material. Ficklin, a former crane operator himself, was motivated to advance Cajun’s already excellent safety program with an invisible barricade system. The new system activates alarms that provide both visual (flashing lights) and sound if an employee penetrates the predetermined invisible barricade radius, alerting both the crane operator and employees on the ground. This radius can be adjusted to increase or decrease the allowable distance by which employees can approach the crane.  The technology, which is similar to that used in RFID card readers, delivers long-range readings from the superstructure of a crane where an antenna is installed to individual readers (small electronic chips) installed inside employee’s hard hats.

“The system further reduces the risks associated with man-machine interface, and adds an additional, important layer of safety,” says Ficklin. “Employees are notified through both a light in the crane cab as well as an audible alarm if they breach the zone.”

Ficklin has also developed a system for preventing the problem of two-blocking in cranes, which occurs when a crane’s load blocks or headache ball comes into contact with its boom due to over-hoisting a load or whip line. This is a serious issue that can compromise the crane’s safety and those working around it, especially in the world of pile driving. Swinging blocks and balls can damage a crane’s boom point, sheaves, sheaves guards, and lines, possibly causing a load to free fall to the worksite below. Pile driving, whether via vibratory or impact hammer, creates additional risk for using traditional anti-two block devices.  There are documented cases where they have come apart and free-fallen to the ground striking workers below.

“For pile driving applications, we mounted antennas on the pile hammer and also clamped readers in a fixed position on the pile line inside a spherical device,” says Ficklin.

The antenna picks up readings on the pile line’s trajectory and sounds an alarm when it is approaching conditions that will place undue pressure on the main or auxiliary lines. A visual and audible alarm system sounds in the cab to alert the crane operator before there is a problem.

Cajun remains on the cutting edge of equipment technology to ensure team members operate in safe conditions while delivering efficient, high-quality results. Other examples include: hydraulic auger cleaners for use when installing drilled piling, which clean drill bits as they extract earthen material; back up cameras on all moving vehicles, and app-driven equipment including the Giken Silent Piler™ system.

“We are always looking for new life-saving technology to make us better and to keep employees safe,” says Ficklin. “This is a company that encourages innovation.”