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.
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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.
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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.”
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!