Many safeguards are available now, and more are on their way.
When a worker is operating a boom lift, scissor lift or telehandler, a few seconds of inattention or a load that’s too heavy can result in an accident. In the last five to 10 years, manufacturers of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPS) have been enhancing their safety systems and providing additional operational safety features.
“Manufacturers have taken giant leaps in improving safety on the worksite,” said Craig Edwards, vice president, national accounts at JLG Lift Equipment, during a presentation at the United Rentals 2019 Total Control & Innovation Conference in San Antonio, Texas. “We want to make sure that machines stay clear of obstacles and obstructions and help increase operator awareness.”
Edwards updated conference attendees on several current and emerging safety enhancements for MEWPS and telehandlers.
Enhanced detection and reverse sensing systems
Enhanced detection systems offer a new layer of protection when boom and scissor lifts approach obstructions.
Many manufacturers now offer systems that sound audible proximity alerts and back down power automatically, if necessary. When the boom lift platform gets close to an obstruction, the system goes into creep mode; if the lift gets within a certain distance from the obstruction, the lift will stop and won’t start again until the operator corrects the problem or manually overrides the safeguard. This safety enhancement can be especially helpful on oil and gas worksites, where hitting an obstruction can be extremely hazardous, as well as on congested construction sites.
Load management systems
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)’s new A92.20 standard for design of MEWPs manufactured on or before the standard’s effective date requires equipment to have some type of indicator — digital readout, bar display, audible alert, etc. — that tells operators after the rated load is reached and before 120% of the rated load is exceeded.
Beyond MEWPs, load management technology is coming to telehandlers. JLG’s SmartLoad technology bundle is already available on certain telehandlers. Automatic attachment recognition identifies which attachment has been put on the machine and delivers the correct load chart. A load management information system (LMIS) measures the weight of the load, where it is in the work envelope, and how much capacity the machine can handle. A load stability indicator (LSI) shows where the load center is; the further out from that center the load is, the less capacity the telehandler has. If the load exceeds the weight limit based on the load chart and/or on the load’s distance from the center, the machine will stop and not allow the operator to move it into a position of reduced stability.
Platform accessories and attachments
Platform accessories and attachments designed for certain jobs can improve the safety and efficiency of lift operation. These add-ons include boom platform mesh to prevent worker’s tools from falling (“stop the drop”) and material handling racks that attach to the platform to handle everything from pipes to panes of glass.
Manufacturers are also producing more attachments designed for specific telehandler applications. For example, grapple attachments are available and should be used if the operator is lifting many round objects, Edwards said.
Equipment manufacturers are encouraging contractors to use these purpose designed and tested accessories rather than self-made solutions by workers on the jobsite, he added.
Remote control technology will let workers operate lifts from a distance. For now, it’s available only for certain scissor lifts that can be transported in a stowed position from one point to another.
With JLG® Mobile Control, operators can download an app onto their phones, scan the equipment’s bar code, then control the lift via Bluetooth from a distance. They can load a lift onto a truck, for example, and then unload it when it reaches its destination, or move it through doorways and other tight areas.
“This will expand into other areas of equipment, to allow the operator to avoid a difficult or potentially dangerous situation,” said Edwards.
When it comes to making construction safer and more productive, there’s no question technology is the tip of the spear. New features on lifts and other heavy equipment will help guard against operator overconfidence and minimize hazards.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.