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Last edited 02 Mar 2021
Proximity warning systems
Social distancing is an idea that has existed for several decades. As a health and safety concept, the phrase is associated with physical proximity requirements as they relate to the prevention of the spread of contagious illnesses. Social distancing has become a part of 'normal' life since the detection of COVID-19 in Wuhan City in December 2019 and the subsequent introduction of lockdown measures in the UK on 23 March 2020.
Proximity warning systems have also existed for several decades. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires that employers take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers as well as persons other than their employees, which implies, for example, a duty to ensure people are safe from activities on construction sites and within all workplaces.
Originally, proximity warning systems were developed to improve site safety for pedestrians across three industry sectors - underground mining, surface mineral extraction and warehousing and materials handling. These systems used sensors to alert operators of industrial vehicles - such as forklifts, cranes, hoists or other heavy lifting machines - of their proximity to other workers and pedestrians.
 Protecting people from other people
Some devices (and the technologies associated with them) have been adapted for social distancing on construction sites and within buildings. These redeployed devices come in the form of personnel distancing systems (known as PDS) or social distancing wearables, including; wearable tags, wrist bands, lanyards and so on. These devices can be attached to a person’s clothing, helmets and so on or added to other wearable workplace access control devices.
Once the exclusion zone has been programmed, these devices sound an alarm and vibrate if the wearer gets too close to another wearer. Proximity warning technology can be used in situations where personnel paths may not be easily controlled (such as warehouses, hospitals, schools or retail facilities), but distances must be maintained for the protection of workers.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- ConTech in a post lockdown, pre-vaccine economy.
- Health and safety.
- Health and safety at work etc act 1974.
- How technology can support social distancing.
- Safety management.
- Social distancing compliance marshal.
- Social distancing on construction sites.
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