Artificial intelligence used to boost safety at enviro site

Laura James
Source: 1News

Artificial Intelligence is being used to boost safety at a resource recovery site in Auckland.

Some visitors to EnviroNZ's North Shore site on Constellation Drive, have edged too close to heavy machinery in the past.

In the last year alone, there have been four close calls where members of the public have jumped in the site to grab something.

Chief executive Chris Aughton said: "People come in, they get a bit distracted and as they are perhaps removing some of their products they're trying to throw into the tip, they can drop things. We've seen people drop mobile phones, right through to broken brooms."

There're a number of health and safety measures including barriers and signage, but Aughton said people forget about those as they focus on retrieving their belongings.

"This is a site that has heavy machinery working on it but they haven't been aware of that risk they're putting themselves in," he said.

Aughton said staff keep a careful eye out, and are able to turn machines off quickly if need be, but admitted, "they can't see everything."

Now, the up to 300 people visiting the tipping site everyday are being watched by an artificial intelligence system.

Qrious, part of the Spark Business Group, developed the tech for EnviroNZ.

It uses 5G connectivity to quickly identify and track people and the excavators on site, calculating the distance between them.

The company's chief executive, Stephen Ponsford, explained, right now it's logging near misses and potential hazards.

"Ultimately what we can do is sound audible alarms, visual alarms, or even deactivate heavy machinery."

Aughton said: "It's another set of eyes, it doesn't get tired, it doesn't get fatigue, it doesn't get distracted, and it's vigilant and it's always on.

"We really see this as enhancing all the systems we've got on site."

The hazard detection system has been running as a pilot for the last six months and EnviroNZ is now set to introduce the tech at another of their sites.

Ponsford said many more companies could be using it.

"There are unfortunately 64 deaths per year in New Zealand workplaces and thousands of injuries so we're really thinking about where's the most high risk areas today in industry and how might we help."