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Using secondary guarding devices

Secondary guarding devices have become an important addition to powered access machines, as they can help prevent operators being crushed between the machine and an overhead obstacle.

However, it is essential that operators do not rely solely on these devices.

Rather than being lulled into a false sense of security, they must take full responsibility for their own safety and be aware of all potential hazards around them.

Incorporating secondary guards

A secondary guarding device is described in IPAF guidance as “a piece of equipment which is either intended to reduce the risk of entrapment and/or provides an alert that an entrapment situation has occurred”.

These devices come in two categories: ones that provide a physical barrier to prevent the operator being crushed (such as SanctuaryZone developed by AFI, the Genie OPS and the Skyjack SGM) and ones that stop machine functions when they detect a pre-determined pressure on part of the platform structure.

“An operator who is not fully aware of his surroundings could be crushed in the blink of an eye”

These pressure-sensing devices include Haulotte’s ACTIV’Shield Bar and Niftylift’s SiOPS system.

I have seen instances where both systems have been combined: a physical barrier and a pressure-sensing device fitted to the same boom lift to provide even more protection.

Machine manufacturers are now incorporating secondary guarding devices within the design and build of new machines, rather than as an add-on.

Powered access machine rental companies such as AFI have increased the range of secondary guarding options available on their hire fleets, in line with industry recognition that no single solution can meet all safety needs.

No substitute

These devices clearly have an important safety role to play, but they are no substitute for training, familiarisation and human awareness.

When using powered access, duty holders must carry out risk assessments for each project, identify any potential hazards and take them into account when planning the work.

For example, it’s not unusual for a machine to be moved from a spacious outdoor work area to an indoor one with restricted access and overhead structures.

The dynamics of a powered access machine travelling from one area to another also presents potential problems.

For example, a boom lift being driven at its elevated speed of 0.61 mph will travel 10.73 inches in 1 second.

But now consider a 25.9 m boom elevated at 45 degrees with full outreach travelling over a 102 mm obstacle, such as a brick or kerb: it will rise 1,342 mm in just 1.23 seconds.

An operator who is not fully aware of his surroundings could be crushed in the blink of an eye.

However, in the right circumstances, secondary guarding devices can save lives and I’d like to see more contractors using them.

They should contact their powered access rental company to discuss the range of options and then determine which device will provide the best solution.

Brian Parker is business development manager, technical support, at AFI Uplift