Wireless Headsets Versus 2-Way Radios for DOT Crews
Sonetics | February 3, 2017

Equipment operators on DOT crews know the score when it comes to safety. They understand that a single lapse in concentration can result in tragic consequences; a backover, struck-by, rollover, trench collapse, or collision on a worksite can be fatal.

They also understand how important it is to be productive. Equipment operators are a critical link in the long chain of project workflow. If they fall behind, the whole project falls behind.

Many DOT crews rely on two-way radios and hand signals to help them improve situational awareness and move safely and efficiently around the worksite. However, optimal situational awareness requires the ability to communicate clearly and in real-time, both of which are easily compromised with two-ways and hand signals.

Based on a True Story

First, a cautionary tale about a breakdown in two-way radio communications…

On a lonely highway winding through a mountain pass, two DOT workers slowly navigated the curves, placing safety cones to direct traffic around a construction zone. The driver was focused on road safety on a treacherous route with tight turns that required his full attention. A lapel mic for a two-way radio connected him to his coworker in the rear position. The rear worker also had a two-way radio strapped to his belt and a lapel mic attached to his chest.

The driver swerved suddenly to avoid a pothole, but the two-way remained silent; no complaints from the rear position. The driver kept his eyes on the road and continued.

There was a reason for the radio silence. The abrupt swerve had thrown the rear worker off the truck. The fall ripped the radio from his hip and crushed it on the road. As he rolled, injured, he watched the truck disappear around the corner, continuing down the mountain.

The driver didn’t realize that the rear worker was gone until a few miles later. He retraced his route and found his friend injured on the side of the road. Fortunately, the injuries weren’t life-threatening, but the worker was unable to return to the job.

When the DOT’s safety committee investigated the incident, they discovered three drawbacks to using two-way radios on a cone truck:

  1. The driver couldn’t safely take a hand off the wheel, key his PTT and notify the rear position about the swerve in time to prevent the accident.
  2. The rear position shouted, but because he didn’t have time to engage PTT, the driver did not hear him.
  3. The inability to communicate as if they were sitting together in the cab of the truck limited their situational awareness and compromised their safety.

6 Ways Wireless Headsets Improve DOT Crew Safety and Productivity

Based on our discussions with DOT safety committees and maintenance managers whose crews use Sonetics team communication systems, we narrowed down six ways they improve safety and productivity for DOT equipment operators:

  1. Eliminate confusion in high noise. With two-way lapel mic crushed against their shoulder it’s difficult to hear and be heard over loud equipment and traffic.
  2. Hear everyone on the system all the time. Because of the wait-your-turn technology of two-way radios, when someone dominates the conversation, no one else can get a word in, even if it’s a warning shout.
  3. Free up equipment operators’ hands so they can remain on the controls. Provide an instant acknowledgement of instructions. With Sonetics, they just talk. No PTT. No waiting their turn.
  4. Control the amount of ambient noise to sharpen situational awareness. Many equipment operators and flaggers don’t feel safe with their ears covered. Sonetics Listen-Through technology lets them communicate with the team and hear surrounding traffic, all while protecting their hearing. If they prefer less noise to improve concentration while operating equipment, then simply adjust Listen-Through levels to their liking.
  5. Provide detailed instructions. When they’re not battling to communicate, they can pay more attention to detail and work more confidently.
  6. Hear on the job and at home. Improve morale on the job and your ability to relax at home after a long day of working around loud machinery.

Peace of Mind in the Wilderness and the City

Team wireless headsets provide the peace of mind DOT road crews need to be more productive, whether on remote mountain roads or clogged inner city intersections. Sonetics wireless headsets are ideal for working around asphalt grinders, milling machines, striping and cone trucks, sweepers operating at night…basically for any situation where fellow crew members are beyond the line of sight but need to stay in continuous communication.