Technology, safety and innovation take center stage
by Stephen Elliott
Technology, safety and innovation all go hand-in-hand in an everchanging world of work environments from the home to the construction job site. Manufacturers realize the potential hazards, trying new ways to innovate, decrease costs and mitigate potentially dangerous situations.
Things like seat belt reminders and vision systems can make all the difference in the world on a job site when it comes to safety. Cleaner and green technology also provides other facets to safety, a bigger picture type of scenario on how to make things better for future generations.
Simon Meester, president, Genie, Redmond, Wash., understands how technology, safety and innovation have to connect with durability and a good return on investment (ROI). Safety is one part of the equation, complementing technological advances.
“The lithium-ion battery option for GS™ E-Drive slab scissor lifts is a great example of how Genie is electrifying equipment to develop quality solutions that meet the industry’s need for cleaner and greener technology,” Meester says. “The needs of job sites have evolved rapidly over the past several years and are likely to look different just five to 10 years from now as well.
“Just four years ago, when Genie introduced our Lift Connect™ telematics solution, the industry was just starting to scratch the surface in terms of the potential that telematics data could provide. The industry has gotten more sophisticated over the last four years, and there are more than 55,000 connected Genie lifts in the field providing actionable feedback today,” he says.
Meester acknowledges supply chain issues are a challenge, but adds, “that said, one thing we would never, ever do at Genie is allow supply chain issues to impact anything related to the safety of our equipment. Likewise, the supply chain has not kept us from continuing to work behind the scenes innovating and testing new designs, concepts and solutions. This last point is important, because the supply chain won’t be constrained forever.
“The CHIPS act should have a positive impact here in North America, and globally, industries will evolve so they can better meet demand,” he says.
Andrew Delahunt, global business development manager, Equipment Safety Systems (EQSS), Melbourne, Australia, says 2023 will see more technology that targets the most critical, high-risk situations for workers, which includes falls from height, working near vehicles or machines and crushing of operators.
“The products that will have the greatest impact in the equipment rental industry will use advanced technology to improve worker safety without affecting the workers’ normal operations or productivity,” Delahunt says. “These products include fall protection monitors on scaffold towers and aerial lifts, pedestrian detection systems, and secondary guarding systems for scissor lifts.”
His company has developed OverWatch™, a system he calls a human-centric secondary guarding solution for scissor lifts. OverWatch uses LIDAR technology to protect the operator without restricting the machine’s productive purpose.
“OverWatch detects the operator’s position and movements,” Delahunt says. “It then intervenes only when their safety is compromised.”
The product continuously monitors the operator’s position using an infrared beam. If the operator moves abruptly or is in a dangerous position, the system will immediately stop the scissor lift.
Other products are either new or evolving, some providing solutions to immediate safety challenges. A few of those products come from the following manufacturers:
Kelly Bell, product manager with Arrow Material Handling Products, Lenexa, Kan., says the company’s new fork handler attachment takes away moving forks by hand. Bell says the fork handler diminishes the chances of common workplace injuries such as smashed fingers and hands, back injuries and more.
“This new forklift attachment takes safety to the next level,” Bell says. “It’s a perfect addition to your rental operation to move and install forklift and telehandler forks without the operator handling the forks.”
Lars Arnold, product manager – sustainable power, Volvo Construction Equipment, Shippensburg, Pa., says the innovation and safety aspects of electric equipment is a simple way to be more environmentally friendly on job sites, potentially opening up new kinds of work for the renter and increasing the rental store’s potential customer base. Electrification is currently best applied to compact equipment, making rental a good fit, Arnold says. Volvo has three electric compact excavators and two electric compact wheel loaders and announced an electric asphalt compactor is on the way.
“An electric machine also boosts safety because it’s so quiet that workers can easily communicate while it is running,” Arnold says.
MBW, Slinger, Wis., has a new walk-behind trowel Power Pitch handle to enhance safety and improve productivity. The handle is designed to create a user-friendly experience and the addition of LED lights increases visibility. A button pitch system means operators will not have to compromise safety by taking their hands off to pitch the blades.
“It’s a much safer operator experience while running the trowel on concrete,” says Andy Multerer, CEO and president, MBW.
Gary Crook, vice president engineering, MEC Aerial Work Platforms, Kerman, Calif., says the company’s latest lift, the Nano10-XD, is part of the company’s efforts into the low-level access segment and what constituted a true solution to the “Ladders Last” commitment, whereby a ladder is a last option for working at heights.
Crook says the user will have ladderless ground-level entry. An Xtra-Deck® solution helps prevent standing on the midrails, another industry hazard.
“Standing on midrails is a perennial problem in the industry,” Crook says. “Probably 99 times out of 100, they get away with it even though it’s prohibited and there are [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] OSHA citations. But, there’s that one time in 100 they will slip, and if unlucky, it can be something serious.”
Allen Engineering Corp., Paragould, Ark., is coming out with the AW16ZT wheel buggy.
“As for the safety aspects, this machine is designed with a wider wheel base footprint, allowing for more contact with the ground than you do with our standard wheel buggy. The turnability makes this a more unique and stable design,” says Jeff Johnson, inside sales manager, Allen Engineering Corp. “This is a small glimpse into the next generation of Allen buggies.”
With so many improvements and innovations on equipment, the rental industry can adapt and benefit from these technological advancements moving forward, according to Delahunt.
“Just as in recent years we have seen significant development in telematics and connected systems that drive higher machine efficiencies, these safety products will have a similar impact,” Delahunt says.