In order to view all images, please register and log in. This will also allow you to comment on our stories and have the option to receive our email alerts. Click here to register

AFI introduces the Sanctuary Zone

UK based access rental company AFI has announced a safety system to protect against overhead crushing incidents in boom lifts.

In a move to save lives, powered access rental specialist AFI-Uplift has developed the Sanctuary Zone – a steel structure that protects the machine operator from being crushed between the platform and an overhead obstacle.

The Sanctuary Zone comprises steel frames mounted on either side of the platform guardrails to create a roll bar effect. By projecting to a height of around 1.8 metres from the platform floor, they stop any overhead obstruction from crushing the operator.
Please register to see all images

The Haulotte version of the Sanctuary Zone

After developing the concept and producing initial drawings, AFI worked closely with the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and machine manufacturers Haulotte and Genie to develop the product. AFI is also in discussions with several other manufacturers about designs for their machines.

Whilst the initial designs are for boom lifts, AFI says that it is also working with manufacturers to adapt this and other safety devices for fitting onto scissor lifts.
Please register to see all images

The Genie version of the Sanctuary zone

Austin Baker, director of AFI’s health, safety and environmental quality 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 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 added.

“Whilst some companies have looked at reverse engineering devices that interact with the machine’s 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.

“It is interesting to note that it seems accepted within the industry that the cages of powered access equipment are often placed into areas that directly impinge upon the area that is designed for the operators to stand. We routinely see them working crouched up to pass under beams or close to the undersides of overhead structures. This process must be stopped and these rails force operators to respect their own safety. Once an operator is trapped we only have minutes to react and rescue them and we know that even if released quickly the likelihood is that they will have severe injuries. Obviously it is far better to prevent the incident from happening in the first place.”

AFI says that it carried out extensive field trials which have shown that the Sanctuary Zone does not impair the operators’ work in any way. The trials have, however, led to a refinement of the design. Initially the steelwork had a 90 degree angle on the leading edge which caught on safety netting.

“We changed this to a gradual curve and this has further improved safety because the curved rails keep the netting away from the operator and prevents snagging,” said Baker.

“At present the Sanctuary Zone frames are attached to the machine’s guardrails but we hope that in the future they will become an integral part of the machine’s design.”

“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.”

Vertikal Comment

We read this release before looking at any photographs and there was a distinct groan in the office as we envisaged an enclosed cage – a likely overkill for what is though a serious issue. However having then opened up the photographs the mood changed.

While there might just be the very odd occasion where these bars/rails – call them what you will – will get in the way in the vast majority of cases they should work very effectively without causing any problems. In fact it might just force operators to be a little more aware of the three dimensional space around the platform.

So far the Niftylift SioPs has been the system that has impressed us the most, however this idea is simpler, it should stop a crushing incident from starting in the first place and it can be fitted to any machine – even retrofitted.

For those rare jobs where the basket needs to thread its way through small and restricted openings it is not uncommon to fit a special small platform specifically for the job anyway.

No this could work – it is though one of those ideas that seem so simple you have to wonder why no one thought if it before? Or is there some massive obstacle that we cannot see and that the field trials have managed to avoid???

AFI appears to have come up with a winning idea here and is takling a very responsible and applaudable approach to its use by others. The jury is out though when it comes to adapating this for scissor lifts!


If you who mock this genuine, practical and virtually universal solution to what has been an issue in our industry can do so after having to tell a mother and father that their son was killed today at work and still mock and poke fun then perhaps I will take note of your cheap comments.
Although crushing accidents are rare I estimate that 20 or 30 fatalities a year occur globally? That means that lives of around 200 family members are directly affected, in addition to all the work mates, many of who are traumatised if there were directly on the scene and involved in any rescue. You can add to this the economic cost to companies of having a fatality on their sites. If some of these can be prevented, even on older units by fitting this roll bar device then I am all for it.
Mock all you want I only hope that you do not have to sit in front of a family and give them the worst news possible any time soon.

Oct 28, 2011

I would put my name to it.

Oct 28, 2011

Reading the comments a lot of people seems to forget that when this is used on an EWP with an overload system, when this protecting construction hits an obstackle it might trigger the overload and if this overload is according the regulations, it is not possible to operate the unit from ground controls other than lower the platform (or get the load off) by operating manualy. However I also believe that on many units, the power of lifting is strong enough to damage this construction

Oct 27, 2011

John you forget many things in your comments the nifty system cant befiited even to all its own machines let alone other companies booms or older machines. in my time ir have heard arguments for not having crash helmets on bikes not having seat belts in cars and not having overload systems of booms and if we follow your argument we wouldnt have airbags or bumpers on cars depending instead on infra red beams to operate our brakes.

for each time one of these bars is hit, it could have been a persons head or neck will they really be so bashed up? And as to leaving it to the operator well yes but you could say the same about seat belts in cars making cars too safe so people drive crazy confident tht they will survive an accident.

i use a platform quite often and cannot see that these side bars would cause too much of a problem at least in the work i do, proofs in the eating i guess

Oct 27, 2011

Dog eat Dog
Siops vs Sanctuary Zone

To compare and explain the two systems I find using the analogy between birth control methods may help.

Niftylift SiOPS as The Pill and Sanctuary Zone as The Chastity Belt.

The Pill a systemic control system. Intrinsic modern unobtrusive design that allows intimate contact and satisfies needs, always available but offers protection when needed. When activated still allows the user to continue as usual but is ready to go again. Accidents may happen but offers piece of mind that there won't be large maintenance bills to pay and offers everybody a second chance.

The Chastity Belt the ultimate barrier method. Obstrusive, clumsey mediaeval device that interferes with normal activity. Gets in the way and when the need arises you will bash it, crash it, try to go through it or around it, eventually you will resort to the hacksaw. Once it is off no protection is provided, damage will be done and if repairs are not made the consequences could be life changing and result in large maintenance bills.

* Edited to remove personally abusive comments that break rules Consider this a yellow card.

Oct 27, 2011

Further to Neil's comments, which i only somewhat agree with, I have been a part of a team that actually seriously looked into this form of safety but came across a few major stumbling blocks;

1) The first were worries from a few fire departments that made the comment that in the event of any problems it would severely hamper rescue efforts. I do, however, realise that they should have been following emergency descent procedures, but they still upheld their worries.
2) There was perceived to be additional dangers from any kick backs on tools being used, i.e. Drills, chainsaws, etc. because of the restrictions on free movement for an operator.
3) The joints for the structure to the cage, especially those seen in these pictures, might weaken and sheer if knocks were to be taken to the guard rails, which would probably become all too common considering Neil's comments below re: reduced operator awareness. There is also the fact that it isn't quite as intuitive to know where the barriers are, unlike with cages in their current form.
4) It was observed that there was a larger willingness for operators to 'climb' higher on the cage believing that this barrier formed an additional protection from falling. In some case operators were seen to support themselves on the barriers!
5) To a lesser extent than those above there is an increased risk of things getting caught, hands or arms becoming squashed, on the barriers.

Further points address the fact that people often need to get closer to a point of work than this appears to allow, i.e operators working in a steel frame corner where welding is taking place, positioning the cage below a structure but working above it, manoeuvring between/against pipes. I realise that people could change their working habits to suit, but how many people would be willing to do that? How long would it take a worker to dismantle the structures onsite?

I'd be interested to know how intensively this was looked at. We decided it wasn't worth investigating further after the above issues, and I'm sure there would be plenty more given time. I think this still has some way to improving upon decent operator training and the device that Niftylift produced, albeit the Niftylift product hasn't addressed retrofitting, perhaps it might be something they would consider?


Oct 26, 2011

Neil Birchall
The manufacturers and hire companies seem pretty keen on developing these so caled anti-entrapment devices to the point where the operator could smash into anything without worry of the consequences. Whilst I am all in favour of any safety system that improves accident rates in our industry (most of the systems do) I feel that we still need to put the responsibility on the operator to ensure that they don't get into an entrapment situation in the the first place. A point which is vigorously stressed at any IPAF operator course. Your thoughts would be welcome
Neil Birchall
IPAF Instructor

Oct 26, 2011