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Reducing Roadwork Risks with Smart Tech

Technology is playing an important role in reducing the risks posed by one of the biggest dangers to highway workforces - vehicle incursions.

An incursion covers any incident in which an unauthorised vehicle enters a temporary traffic management (TTM) zone. This can be a deliberate act, often a frustrated motorist, or can happen simply as the result of confusion as a road user unintentionally enters a prohibited area.

Whatever the cause, the potential outcome is the same - significant risk of injury and fatality to any workers operating within the TTM area at the time of a breach.

In the period before COVID-19 restrictions, around 250 incursions were being reported each month on Highway England’s strategic road network.

It’s to help improve the control and visibility of access points that the Instaboom mobile was created. Together with the Instaboom G6 add-on, these two innovations are actively improving roadwork safety.

Here’s a look at how.

What is Instaboom?

Instaboom is a portable barrier that’s operated remotely and is used to control access to a highway works area. With a simple set-up, it can be deployed by a single worker in less than a minute.

A control pad allows the boom to be remotely raised and lowered from a distance of up to 800 metres. A single control pad can operate up to four Instabooms and can be used as part of an ‘airlock’ style access strategy.

It’s powered by a hybrid system which combines a solar panel with battery storage. The solar panel provides a reliable source of energy even during the murkiest of British winters conditions. In low-light, a fully charged unit will last for around three weeks before requiring a top-up.

 "Instaboom is a very useful innovation and tool for preventing vehicles coming too close to the workforce in busy and challenging environments such as smart motorways."

John Quarless CMIOSH, (former Health and Safety Manager for the M20 Smart Motorway Upgrade, now Head of SHE at BMJV)

What’s the Instaboom G6?

This a height detector that works with the Instaboom to guard against the risks of overhead collision. It prevents any vehicles or plant from entering a zone where a safety height limit has been for hazards such as low-level structures, bridges or overhead cables.

An IP68 laser monitor, fitted to a standard GS6 pole, is raised to the required height and will automatically check each approaching vehicle. If it’s above the set limit, it instantly activates the Instaboom and the barrier lowers to prevent access.

A cable connects the detector to the Instaboom barrier, which is typically positioned 20 metres or more away. Whenever it’s triggered the boom lowers to act as a deterrant for the over-height vehicle approaching.

"We also trialled the GS6 Boom on the M20 project, which is an add-on that uses a sensor to detect if an over-height vehicle approaches and deploys the barrier. This was ideal for the M20 due to an overhead electricity cable being in the works area. This innovative solution enabled us to protect the workforce from this hazard effectively.” 

John Quarless CMIOSH, (former Health and Safety Manager for the M20 Smart Motorway Upgrade, now Head of SHE at BMJV)

What’s the background to Instaboom/G6?

Both of the products are designed to meet recommendations and standards set by Highways England’s ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative. This combined expertise from across the sector to update and improve a range of health and safety best practises including:

Raising the Bar 27: Managing temporary traffic management incursions

This looked at ways to reduce the risks of vehicle incursions. It highlighted weaknesses with the traditional methods with access points often controlled using lines of cones or a temporary barrier that’s manually shifted.

Entry points were liable to be confusing and workers were required to be permanently stationed at an access point, putting them at risk of both collisions and verbal/physical abuse from motorists. The recommendations place importance on clearer designs, visual deterrents and the use of designated barriers.

Raising the Bar 7: Overhead structure and services protection

This looked at the risks posed by overhead structures and identified ways to improve highway safety standards. It highlighted the ineffectiveness of traditional methods used to prevent overhead strikes such as height markers or a ‘hangman’s crook’.

Among the recommendations are the use of blue cones to mark overhead height-restricted areas, improved signage and the use of ‘goal post’ style structure at access points to ensure vehicles are within a required height limit.

Smart solutions, a collaborative approach

Instaboom is based on the ideas and recommendations that came out of these Raising the Bar initiatives. Instaboom and G6 Instaboom were created by the Kier Highways’ M20 development team,

“I remember sitting with Instaboom in the M20 SMP offices, asking if they could attach something to the barrier so it would close if something potentially hit an overhead service. Two weeks later we had the first automated, passive protection system for protecting overhead services in the world on site. To see how this idea has grown and how the industry has taken it on has made me extremely proud. In twenty years it will be one of the things I look back on and say...I helped with that.”

John Quarless CMIOSH, (former Health and Safety Manager for the M20 Smart Motorway Upgrade, now Head of SHE at BMJV)

How does Instaboom reduce incursion risks?

The ability to operate the Instaboom remotely removes the need for highway workers to be close to an access point. This reduces the danger of vehicle collisions and also the potential threats of face-face confrontations with road users.

The fast and efficient raising and lowering action reduces the chances of ‘follow on’ incursions. These can happen with a traditional approach when cones or barriers are not immediately put back in place.

A major part of the Instaboom’s effectiveness is also is visual clarity. The robust unit provides a clear visual deterrent, removing the potential confusion and ‘muddle’ caused by temporary barriers.

How portable is the Instaboom?

It’s designed with mobility in mind and can be transported via a van or open-backed vehicle. Wheels, fitted side arms and a lifting iron provide a range of options for load and unloading. Once it’s in place, it can be deployed in less than a minute by a single operative.

All that’s required is:

1. Lower stabilising arms

2. Connect boom elements to the required length (maximum four metres)

3. Switch Instaboom on

4. Use fob to initiate calibration sequence

5. You’re done

How does the Instaboom G6 reduce overhead strike risks?

An active system that physically prevents any vehicle from entering a height restricted area is an effective way to reduce overhead collision risks. It’s a dormant system that doesn’t need an operator but whenever activated, requires human intervention to review the risk.

Want to know more about Instaboom/G6?

Call today to book a call with our commercial team and a demonstration when COVID restrictions have been lifted + 44 (0)344 840 0088 or email

Click here to view more Instaboom videos and find out more