Kevin O’Shea discusses all the happenings in the mast climbing sector

By Lindsey Anderson24 June 2013

Kevin O'Shea

Kevin O'Shea

The annual International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) Summit and International Awards for Powered Access (IAPAs) were held for the first time in the U.S. on March 26 in Miami.
This marks an important departure for this event and IPAF and KHL should be commended for their optimism toward, and commitment to, the U.S. market. This event, which has been held in Europe since its inception, regularly pulls in between 350 and 450 access industry attendees of the highest caliber, and many in the industry wondered about the attendance and overall success of the event on this side of the Atlantic.
They needn’t have wondered! More than 350 industry professionals gathered in Miami to hear world class speakers and to attend the glittering awards ceremony.
This event was a huge success and it was extremely important for the mast climbing industry.
The mast climbing industry was affected by the challenging economic climate like the boom and scissor industries, but the mast climbing industry was still relatively small and specialized and it was just beginning to look like it was coming out of its entrepreneurial phase when the recession took hold.
However, those in the industry are made of tough stuff, and they kept working and developing even through the recession. Product refinements, launches and re-designs, and advances in regulation and training have continued to provide an ever-wider range of solutions to challenging access problems.
This commitment, drive and ingenuity was amply recognized at the recent International Awards for Powered Access. Out of the 86 submissions the IAPAs judging panel received, the mast climber industry was responsible for 22 of them, resulting in 10 shortlist nominations. The industry’s goal was to raise the profile of mast climbers as a product and to highlight its ability to provide access solutions in the most demanding circumstances, and as far as the IAPAs went, it was ‘mission accomplished.’
Incredibly, on awards night, out of the 14 awards presented that evening, the mast climber industry went home with five, getting some well-deserved time in the spotlight thanks in large part to the inventiveness of the manufacturers who impressed the judges with their technical and problem-solving skills on such prestigious projects as the Freedom Tower in New York and the Eiffel Tower in Paris (see photos). I worked with the entrants from the mast climber industry in an effort to maximize on the exposure and quality of the submissions was impressive.
Another interesting aspect to the mast climber industries’ presence at the summit and awards was the identity they had established for the event. The ‘Mastclimbing Group’ complete with logo and sponsorship level support for the event, achieved a level of recognition for all the mast climber industry members who were there, and a summit breakout session, presented by myself, IPAF South American representative Romina Vanzi and NIOSH project scientist Bryan Wimer meant that there was a constant ‘buzz’ about the group throughout the proceedings.
From the breakout session
Bryan Wimer presented an up-to-date report on the work of NIOSH (National Institute for Safety and Health) which really caught the delegates’ interest.
Laboratory load and stability testing on mast climbers is providing NIOSH with useful results in the areas of fall protection and stability performance and the government body will report its results on the conclusion of the testing. The delegates were also extremely interested to hear about a collaboration between NIOSH, Motorola and IPAF which is looking at the potential for QR Tags on mast climbers which, when read via smart phones, will link to safety information and inspection and use videos for the operator to review prior to use.
A number of questions regarding what might be achieved by the ‘Mastclimbing Group’ came up in the break-out session on the morning of the summit. Here is a sample of the discussions that took place:
• How can the industry maximize on the products’ re-emergence into the spotlight? Pre-recession, mast climbers were responsible for some high value engineering solutions for some of worlds’ most challenging construction projects. The projects might have disappeared temporarily but ability of mast climbers to provide highly productive, cost-effective, safe solutions hasn’t. How can the industry best maximize on the need to get this message out to the industry?
• How important is it for industry leaders to get involved as champions for the industry? Industry leaders should lead the industry. The mast climber industry needs its leading lights to increase their impact on the market, increase their global footprint and take a major role in steering quality and training to the next level. Praised for their contributions in these areas to date, the top manufacturers and suppliers have an opportunity to further raise the game of a quality and safety-conscious industry to hitherto unseen levels.
• How can members of the group collectively uphold the value of the product? A need to collectively address the re-emphasis of the abilities of mast climbers was put forward. The solutions provided by the product have created major productivity, safety and operational gains on hundreds of projects and there was a call to make sure that these attributes are forcefully highlighted in order to prove the real value of the solution.
Members committed to address these and other related questions before the next industry meeting in an effort to put some impetus behind the re-emphasis of the product. I can tell you that the enthusiasm in the room and over the duration of the event was infectious and continued to the meeting areas and stands at the Bauma show in Germany in April. Interesting times ahead!
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