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Positive trials for new safety system

UK based powered access rental company AFI-Uplift has been trialling a new security system on some of its lifts and has received very positive feedback from those clients that have used it.

The new Smart Zone card reader system is being introduced by AFI in association with Infobric. It will enable contractors to have full control over who operates what type of aerial lift on their sites. 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.
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The smart PAL card has to be swiped through a card reader before the machine can be used

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) 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 Card containing their details.

To unlock the machine, the operator swipes the card across an Infobric unit mounted near the control box. 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 aerial lifts 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.
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The new security system is being trialled at the Carillion Media Hub catering village in London

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 for 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, one of the first powered access machine operators in the UK to use the Smart Zone system, 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 unit when you’re not there.”

Baulch’s comments are 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 your 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 added: “The most exciting aspect of this system is that when we leave a machine overnight or a weekend, we know that no-one else will be using it. We will certainly be looking at rolling this out to other sites on a national basis”.

Austin Baker, director of AFI’s Health, Safety and Environmental Quality (HSEQ) department, summed up the feedback: "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, has the final word: “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.”


John Robertson
Hi Tony,

Thanks for your comment, just to clarify. The Infobric system does not interact in any way with the equipments' ground controls, auxiliary systems or emergency lowering. It works simply by isolating the machines function enable ability, whether that's a footswitch, joystick trigger or function enable button at the platform controls only. Manouvering of the machine would still be able to take place at the ground controls in the normal manner, irrespective of whether the first person on the scene was a card holder or not.

Best Regards

John Robertson
UK Major Projects Manager
AFI-Uplift Ltd

Oct 7, 2011

Many years ago i put forward this same idea, at the time the problem was that on health and safety grounds if there was a major issue/problem,then it must be available for anyone to operate the machine in emergency conditions.
This system does not allow that ! and of course to have something that overides the system means that the system is worthless !
Would you want to somebody involved in an accident and the only way to save him was to manouvre the machine, only to stand by and watch because you and others do not have the correct operating card !

Oct 7, 2011