A THRIVING Winsford tech firm which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to save lives on construction sites has been given a royal pat on the back. 

Safety Shield Global, based on Winsford Industrial Estate, uses specialised AI cameras mounted on heavy plant machinery such as excavators, bulldozers, and cranes, to detect humans who enter their danger zone.   

When a human gets too close, either the driver is alerted, or the machine stops automatically.

According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) data, 45 people were killed at work in the construction industry in the year 2022-23 in the UK alone, nearly twice that of the next most dangerous industry, forestry.

Jonathan Guest set up Safety Shield in 2018 after many years researching and developing the technology alongside his construction business.

On Monday, May 6, the firm was awarded a prestigious King’s Award for Enterprise, in the Innovation category, which Jonathan described as ‘deeply humbling’.

Northwich Guardian: Plant like excavators can be dangerous for those working around them, but Safety Shield's technology eliminates much of the riskPlant like excavators can be dangerous for those working around them, but Safety Shield's technology eliminates much of the risk (Image: Safety Shield)

He added: “It’s such an honour, as it recognises we - a UK company - were the first to bring this technology into the construction industry.

“It’s just that bit of extra kudos around the product, and an endorsement of its quality.”

“It’s taken us about 10 years to train the AI model for a construction environment. It filters out all other objects and just detects people.

“Now most of the main contractors, like Balfour Beatty, Anglian Water, and HS2, are all starting to mandate it now. It’s becoming the industry norm.

“We’ve seen around about a 60 per cent reduction in alerts over a 12-month period. People get to know the zones which are being monitored, and they stay away.

"When our technology is in use, you see a significant improvement in behaviour around the plant, which is ultimately the very best way to avoid collisions.

“If we can keep reducing the figure down, we hope to be able to eliminate collisions altogether."

Safety Shield has created more than 70 high-quality jobs in Winsford, with some its developers on top-end salaries.

At the other end of the scale, it’s taken on and trained up apprentices from schemes designed to support unemployed young people into decent jobs.

Jonathan added: “The developers themselves are very highly paid, but there’s another side to it as well.

“We’ve set up a separate data centre to manage all the incident reports we receive, and a lot of those staff we took on for it were from the Prince’s Trust Kickstart Scheme. They’ve worked really well for us.

“We still have four of them, and two are now managers. They’ve gone from having no wage to earning £30,000 plus.”