AFI gets good feedback on PAL Smart Card

By Maria Hadlow11 October 2011

Fitting equipment with Smart PAL Card readers helps ensure that only qualified operators use machine

Fitting equipment with Smart PAL Card readers helps ensure that only qualified operators use machines.

A new system being launched by AFI-Uplift to improve powered access machine safety by controlling access to MEWPs (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms) is receiving very positive feedback from the companies involved in its trials.

The new Smart Zone card reader system being introduced by AFI in association with Infobric will give contractors full control over who operates what type of MEWP on their site. This means that only those people who have received accredited operator training for the specific machine type in question will be able to operate that machine.

IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) has been working closely with AFI on the launch of the system, and operators who are authorised by site managers for particular machines will be given prototypes of IPAF's smart PAL (Powered Access License) Card containing their details.

To unlock the machine, the operator swipes the card across an Infobric unit mounted on the machine. In a further safety measure, there is a customer option for the machine still not to unlock until the operator has confirmed that he has carried out pre-use inspection checks.

A number of the card readers have been fitted to machines working on the construction of a catering village which will serve 60,000 meals a day to journalists visiting the Carillion Media Hub in London. The catering village is being built by Premier Interlink and installed and fitted out by their sub contractors SJP Contracts.

Sean Rath, Carillion Integrated Management Systems Adviser, said, "The potential of the system is endless. For example, if a MEWP operator goes from one Carillion site to another we could use the system to check with the database that he has had the familiarisation training for the machines he would be operating on the next site. We can also keep a log of all the training that he's completed on a site, such as behavioural safety training.

"The main benefit of this system to Carillion is to prevent unauthorised use. We have 250 MEWPs at work on the Media Hub and the Smart Zone system can prevent unauthorised use of any machine it's fitted on. There have been incidents throughout the UK where people have been hit by a machine or a vehicle that was being driven by someone who was not authorised to use it," he added.

Andrew Baulch, of SJP Contracts, is one of the first powered access machine operators in the UK to use the Smart Zone system. He said: "The system is fantastic because no-one else can use your machine. It's not unusual when you are working on a site with other companies around you for someone to use your machine when you're not there."

Those comments were echoed by SJP Contracts Director Mark Pniewski, who said: "When you are hiring plant you don't want someone from another company using your machine and diesel, possibly damaging it and risking injury to themselves and other people because they have not had the training required to operate it. This new system will prevent this type of thing happening, so it can only be good for the industry."

Dave Denton, Premier Interlink Project Manager, also welcomed the security benefits of the Smart Zone system: "The most exciting aspect of this system is that when we leave a machine overnight or during a weekend, we know that no-one else will be using it. We will certainly be looking at rolling this out to other sites nationally," he said.

Austin Baker, Director of AFI's Health, Safety and Environmental Quality (HSEQ) Department, said, "AFI is delighted with the positive feedback we have received about the Smart Zone system. Everyone from the operator through to the main contractor has recognised the important safety and security benefits that the system brings."

Giles Councell, IPAF Director of Operations, said, "IPAF is testing and developing the smart PAL Card, focusing on the technology behind the system and on the safety aspect as a tool to control access to machines. We appreciate the support our members are giving to trial this innovative project and look forward to further testing. The PAL Card is going smart and we are looking at integrating future functions such as tracking familiarisation and logging operator experience."

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