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Weld Shack Safety for Pipeline Workers

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Pipelines are constructed in all kinds of weather and conditions, and that can make it tricky to complete those all-important welds sealing one section of pipe to the next. Or it would make it tricky if it weren’t for the weld shack.

A weld shack is a small, portable building that sits over the section of pipe to be welded, to protect it, and the workers, from the elements. When the weld is completed, the shack is lifted, via crane, and set down over the next section to be joined.

In 2021, SA Energy Group, a Calgary-based pipeline company, approached Correct-AI to see if they could automate the process of ensuring that no one is inside the weld shack when it is lifted by the crane.

SA Energy had been using a manual system, whereby welders press a button when they enter the shack, and again when they leave, to indicate whether or not there is anyone inside. The potential for human error, if welders fail to press the button, convinced the safety team at SA Energy that an automatic system was needed as an additional safeguard.

“We were confident in our existing welding shack safety system but identified an opportunity to really optimize it”, said Sean Imeson, corporate equipment manager, with SA Energy Group. “We asked Correct-AI to adapt their technology to enhance our safety system.”

Correct-AI, already seasoned experts in the field of artificial intelligence, went to work adapting their Proximity Detection System, which provides real-time proximity awareness and terrain hazard notifications to operators of industrial heavy equipment.

Modelling software in the AI system was trained to recognize people, rather than vehicles or hazards. Using thousands of photos of people in different positions and wearing different outfits, it was possible to train the system to tell the difference between people and other objects. When a human is detected, it automatically triggers the brake on the crane so that the shack cannot be moved.

AI proximity awareness

SA Energy was concerned that the detection system in the welding shack must not activate while the shack is in motion. To mitigate their concerns, Correct-AI incorporated a motion sensor into their AI Personnel Detection System to detect any movement to the shack. When movement of the shack is detected, the AI System disengages so the welding shack can be moved without a chance activation of the brake during the move.

“Correct-AI heard our concerns about false activations of the braking systems, and were able to introduce further refinements to their system to minimize the possibility of any potential false triggers caused by non-human detection, such as ground movement,” said Imeson.

This is a great example of how the functionality of technology can be evolved. The PROX-EYETM system has so far been used in the mining, construction, and energy industries to alert heavy equipment operators of potential hazards… But this is an entirely different application and an innovative application that is helping make pipeline operations even safer.

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