The ongoing technological improvements in wireless connections and screen quality have made crane cameras even more useful. There can be various accidents and problems arising in a construction site when crane operators perform blind lifts. The operator has limited visibility and relies entirely on the banksmen, riggers, or signallers to instruct them when moving heavy loads from one point to another. And, when this is done only through radio communications it can lead to various disadvantages like - inaccuracy in placing loads leading to fatal injuries, slower lifting movement, and interruption in receiving instructions due to use of traditional radio transmission.
Using a camera system is an ideal solution because of its ease of deployment. The camera is placed on the hook section of the crane and it transmits live video output to the operator in the cabin, who can instantly monitor the on-site work situation in real-time video. A good camera system for cranes can help the operator see the entire lift, from start to finish.
HoistCam is an integrated, wireless video system with digital video recording and embedded sensors coupled with a custom, cloud-based software monitoring platform. Crane operators can attach HoistCam to a crane’s hook block and additional cameras can monitor safety-critical systems such as winch and motors.
While the safety benefits of gaining visibility through cameras are easily understood, there are broader uses of cameras for achieving overall job safety and productivity. Camera systems can provide analytics when tied to software programs. Now, the next step would necessarily deal with providing audio support. But are microphones an urgent need? Since the wireless camera system acts as an extra pair of eyes for the operator, is it really necessary to have a microphone integrated into the camera to act as an extra pair of ears?
Let’s weigh the advantages and disadvantages of installing a microphone into the crane camera.
Pros of an integrated microphone:
- Direct audio from the hook block–It enables the operator to hear audio directly from the hook block or mounting location of the camera. Certain sounds which are outside the camera range can be heard, the operator is able to hear what is going on around the ground, and any approaching equipment can be heard before it is seen. It allows the operator to make quick decisions and be proactive in case of unexpected events, when the visuals are accompanied by the sounds.
- Inexpensive – Having a microphone integrated in the crane camera system is inexpensive in general. Most microphones can tolerate extreme high sound pressure levels. The audio transmission capability is particularly useful in Asian markets where radios aren’t used as much for communicating with the crane operator.
Cons of an integrated microphone:
- Popularity of handheld radios – Vast majority of industries are communicating through handheld radios. Microphone integrated into the hook block is a new feature, but it is not necessarily a helpful feature. Handheld Radios are an effective means of communication between the operator and the banksmen.
- More stress on the operator - Operators trust in getting directions and assurance from their counterpart on the ground such as riggers and banksmen. Radio commands from the banksman or rigger are confirmed visually by the crane operator without pressure and hesitation. Relying on the camera audio may delay in operation and lead to more stress on the operator.
- Disturbances – The camera microphone capturing audio from the hook block will also capture sounds from the surrounding area. This would create unnecessary disturbances for the operator whose main focus is on moving the loads without any accidents. Rather than acting as a direction assistance, the audio would only divert the attention of the operator.
- Conflict with existing radios – The audio from the camera along with the radio can create confusion for the operator. Cross talk and receiving the audio from two sources at different rates can lead to chaos. Poor signals can cause delay in the audio, which just reduces the value of the whole camera system. It falls short of the benefit that radios have in terms of real-time communication.
HoistCam cameras provide excellent safety support through visuals. Though, a camera with an integrated microphone may not be a useful additional feature. Radio communications are more reliable and reduce stress to a great extent when aided with the visuals through HoistCam.