AFI crusades against crushing

By Maria Hadlow01 November 2011

AFI-Uplift's Sactuary Zone  mounted on a Haulotte machine.

AFI-Uplift's Sactuary Zone mounted on a Haulotte machine.

UK rental company AFI-Uplift has developed the Sanctuary Zone - a steel structure that protects the machine operator from being crushed.

Being crushed against overhead obstructions, resulting in death or serious injury, is one of the main hazards facing operators of MEWPS (mobile elevating work platforms) Increasingly manufacturers and rental companies are beginning to address this issue to further add to the safety of working at height.

Niftylift was the first manufacturer to develop a system, SiOPS, which is now fitted as standard on most of the company's machines. The Lavendon Group has been working with Blue Sky Access (recently purchased by the Group) on the Sky Siren, a retrofit device to prevent entrapment.

Now AFI-Uplift, working closely with the UK's HSE (health and safety executive), Haulotte and Terex AWP has developed the Sanctuary Zone.

The Sanctuary Zone comprises steel frames that project above the machine platform, stopping any overhead obstruction from crushing the operator. While the initial designs are for boom lifts, AFI is also working with manufacturers to adapt this and other safety devices for fitting onto scissor lifts.

Austin Baker, director of AFI's Health, Safety and Environmental Quality (HSEQ) Department, said: "If we accept that operators are placing their upper torso into areas that allow entrapment in the first instance then it is our duty to redesign that equipment in order that this risk is removed or minimised. There should be no reason why an operator needs to lift access into a position whereby he is forced to work in a hunched or bent over position."

"We believe that the Sanctuary Zone is the most important safety development in the powered access sector for many years. We are so convinced that it will save lives that we want to make it available to everyone, including our competitors," he said.

"Whilst some companies have looked at reverse engineering devices that interact with the safety systems we felt that those systems were secondary in the hierarchy of safety. The Sanctuary Zone prevents operator injuries through crushing rather than reacting to the crushing once it has happened.

AFI has carried out field trials to determine that the Sanctuary Zone does not impair the operators' work in any way. The trials have, however, led to a refinement of the design to prevent the steelwork snagging on netting.

Mr Baker said, "This important safety initiative for operators of mobile elevating work platforms has relied on collaboration between hirers, manufacturers and users, including machine operators. The involvement of the supply chain has been essential in developing potential solutions to a difficult problem."

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