Making Health & Safety a Priority
Murray Irrigation is the largest privately-owned irrigation company in Australia. In 2013 Murray Irrigation commenced work on a federally funded project to identify and provide automation and water efficiencies within their network.
Having undertaken an initial project risk assessment, Murray Irrigation identified one of their major risks as vehicle traffic travelling on public roads and access tracks within the Murray Irrigation network.
Most of their day-to-day vehicle trips are individuals on their own, regularly driving down country gravel roads and channel access tracks beside irrigation canals full of water. It was also identified that there are multiple mobile telephone black spots within their operational territory, where there is no mobile coverage.
Murray Irrigation went out to market to address these safety risks, assessing four different companies that could meet the risk profile and safety concerns highlighted. After assessing the responses an agreement with Smartrak was reached and a one-year trial commenced across a subset of vehicles being used on the project.
Vehicle Composition during Trial
Of the 15 vehicles included in the initial trial, Murray irrigation decided to get a mixed profile of town vehicles, vehicles operating out on site and even a 3rd party contractor, who are providing construction services to the project.
Educating the Organisation and End Users
Prior to rolling out Smartrak in their trial vehicles, Murray Irrigation briefed all their staff. “It’s all about talking, consulting, engaging and communicating with our people” highlighted the Murray Irrigation HSE Support Manager.
Whilst there was buy-in from staff and education around the system from the very beginning, there was naturally some questions and concerns around the system and privacy from staff. To address this Murray Irrigation continued to communicate around the reason for and use of the data, which was made available to their personnel and talked through during their monthly “toolbox” meetings.
As they progressed, Murray Irrigation began to use the driving behaviour feedback from the units, ranking the drivers based on scores derived from the system including overspeed, harsh braking, acceleration and hard cornering. “We had a driver ranking competition going – who was best for the month, which was good because it created a lot of interest and a bit of competition.”
When assessing the monitoring of driver behaviour as part of their onboarding, Murray Irrigation also talked to a couple of other companies that were using Smartrak. This helped them understand how others have implemented and leveraged Smartrak, and understand what others have done to integrate the change in culture.
The overall feeling perceived by Murray Irrigation was “there was no real pushback from staff, they saw that if something did happen, they had a safety device and system that was there for them.” The other positive that Murray Irrigation saw was seeing the data outline how staff were “taking more ownership, more responsibility” and how culturally “it’s gone away from big brother” and instead is perceived as a safety device.
Driver Safety Improvements
Over the first few months, Murray Irrigation collected data to create a fleet baseline. Over time with the education and visualisation of their driver behaviour, their driver safety has markedly improved. “The consensus (from staff) was to slow down, take it easy and get there five minutes later,” said Murray Irrigation Construction Manager.
Safety Beyond the Vehicle
Murray Irrigation has been working through a staged approach to trialling items within the organisation. Initially, they started using Smartrak’s AVL (automatic vehicle locators) to track their vehicles – often with added Satellite connectivity to ensure uninterrupted operation in blackspots.
After looking at specific use cases, they also identified a gap where staff will be operating a distance from their vehicle. Murray Irrigation Construction Manager noted, “we do at times have people, our channel attendants, and our project people get out and walking a few kilometres down channels”. To fill this gap, they have recently started trialling some satellite-based personal safety devices to provide flexibility and protection to staff outside their vehicles.
Safety isn’t just focused on their own staff members though. Murray Irrigation is proactively ensuring that anyone interacting within their activities, including contractors, are being protected in the field.”Now we’ve got handheld devices, we’ll probably start issuing them to our contractors that are on site as well,” said Murray Irrigation Construction Manager.
Murray Irrigation is also exploring further ways to reinforce this culture within their contractors. In the previous winter Murray Irrigation had close to 300 contractors working with them. Murray Irrigation is looking to include requirements for tracking that integrates into the Smartrak system as part of future tender requirements for their contractors – ensuring the safety of everyone in the field.
24/7 Monitoring & Emergency Contacts
Initially, for the trial, Murray Irrigation had an administrative assistant monitoring and managing the day-to-day administration of the system. But given that work in the busy season is often happening seven days a week, it wasn’t an ideal situation – especially outside of their normal operating hours if there was an emergency. To address this, Murray Irrigation has recently introduced 24/7 security monitoring. This means that in the event of an alarm, there are now four points of contact, including a 24/7 security monitoring resource to ensure there is always someone available and notified in the case of an emergency duress being triggered.
By using data from Smartrak around vehicle utilisation, Murray Irrigation ran some reports and graphs on vehicle utilisation across the days and weeks. From this data, the reports showed the underutilisation of their fleet in the field. From this Murray, Irrigation have reduced the number of vehicles used on the project.
The next step in improving fleet utilisation is to implement Smartrak’s Pool Booking system, which Murray Irrigation will be doing in the next few months. This will create further benefits across the main business as they move away from a paper-based system that requires a lot of paperwork and follow-up.
Continued expansion and testing of solutions
Murray Irrigation is a leader in safety in their community, they’re continuing to look at ways to influence and highlight the value they’ve achieved to their personnel and contractors.
Since the trial, Murray Irrigation has been looking to expand the integration across the wider business with a further 60 vehicles. For Murray Irrigation, the most important thing is their staff, and ensuring “they’re safe, secure and come home at the end of the day.”