Although still in its infancy, a major technological advancement in the safe use of aerial work platforms is having an impact on the access industry—and you probably didn’t even know it.
While an operator being pinned or crushed between a stationary structure and a boom lift’s controls or top guard rail is not the industry’s leading cause of injury, it is still a major safety concern. This rare, yet often fatal, event has spawned a number of safety devices to be designed to help prevent this kind of injury. I am sure the issue will also drive development of even more safety devices to prevent operators from being pinned or crushed while operating boom lifts.
Niftylift first with solution
Niftylift first addressed the issue with JLG showed a prototype of its SkyGuard system at the National Construction Safety Executives spring meeting in early April, as well as at Intermat. Similar to the SkySiren, SkyGuard features a pressure bar that extends over the upper control console. It takes approximately 50 pounds of pressure to activate the system. Once triggered, the system will passively reverse the most recent movement of the unit’s operation and an alarm will sound simultaneously.
SkyGuard will be optional on all JLG units produced after Intermat, and it is expected to be retrofittable to all JLG booms produced since 2009. Unlike the SkySiren, the system will not fit other brands. I understand there may be plans to offer the system for models built prior to 2009, but it will be not be available for some time.
Add to the mix Genie’s Operator Protective Structure (OPS). A prototype OPS shown at Intermat resembles a roll bar and can be attached to boom lifts with 6- to 8-foot platforms. The tubular steel structure is designed to transfer the kinetic energy into surrounding structures while maintaining a protected area for the operator. It is bolted directly on the boom lift’s platform; no modifications are needed.
How will other OEMs address this issue? More important is the potential impact this will have on rental fleet operators. Jeff Stachowiak, national safety training director for Sunbelt Rentals and vice president of the Scaffold & Access Industry Association, believes it is only a matter of time before the entire industry will have to use ACDs systems similar to these. As Jeff puts it, “The genie is out of the bottle.”
Enhanced control protection is the term OEMs will want you to become use to using. Although these products all have the same purpose—to reduce the chance of an operator becoming crushed or pinned between the controls and whatever is above or besides them—they all do it in different ways.