Telehandlers are ubiquitous in many process sectors yet can pose a deadly hazard, warns Brigade Electronics’ Emily Hardy, but technology can lessen the impact
Telehandlers, also known as telescopic handlers, cherry pickers or rough terrain forklifts, operate as a cross between the crane and the forklift, with versatile attachments including winches, pallet forks, snow ploughs and buckets.
Whether transporting heavy pallets, shifting hay bales or scooping snow, telehandlers are in high demand, with around 70,000 units produced annually. About two thirds of this demand is concentrated in Europe and North America.
While the safety record of these machines is generally good, preventable accidents resulting in injury or death continue to be a serious issue. Risks of operating telehandlers include accidentally tipping a load, overbalancing the vehicle so that it tips laterally, and failing to see workers in the vicinity of the plant, particularly while reversing. When in operation with the boom raised, there’s also a significant danger of a blind spot to the front right-hand side of the vehicle.
Safe but not faultless
In September 2019, a farmer in Powys was killed when the telehandler he was working in overturned and he became trapped. Another recent tragedy occurred when a waste and recycling worker died from multiple injuries after he was struck by a telehandler as it reversed at a yard in Horley, Surrey.
While workplace safety is strictly governed in the UK and compliance levels are high, improvements can always be made. Safety technology is constantly evolving; many of the latest devices can be retro-fitted to vehicles, giving telehandler operators the best possible chance of maintaining a spotless safety record. Indeed, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that telehandlers ‘should be equipped with adequate aids so drivers can see areas where people may be at risk.’
Array of aids
Here are a few of the innovations on offer:
Retro-fitting vehicles with safety camera monitor systemsallows drivers to keep a close eye on blind spots at the back and sides of their vehicle so they can instantly see other workers, vehicles, or members of the public in the vicinity.
Radar obstacle detection technology can detect stationary and moving objects even in the harshest of environments. It gives the driver an audible and visible warning when objects are within a certain distance.
While workplace safety is strictly governed in the UK and compliance levels are high, improvements can always be made
Heavy duty and able to operate even in high or low temperatures, radar obstacle detection is also waterproof and smoke resistant, and can be easily heard in noisy environments.
When camera systems are linked to a mobile digital recording set-up (MDR), therecorded footage can provide irrefutable evidence in the event of a collision, or any kind of incident, such as vandalism or theft from a vehicle.
One major benefit of MDR is its ability to support drivers who can often be the subject of increased scrutiny after an incident. The latest MDR systems, such as Brigade’s, also have 3G and 4G connectivity, meaning that data can be live-streamed remotely with real time GPS tracking.
Warning alarms are audible devices to alert pedestrians and workers when a vehicle is manoeuvring. Unlike traditional ‘beep beep’ tonal alarms, which can be almost impossible to pinpoint, the latest technology creates a ‘ssh-ssh’ sound and uses smart technology to adjust sound levels in line with the ambient noise in the immediate vicinity.
Utilising a wide range of frequencies, smart reversing alarms also enable the listener to instantly locate what direction the sound is coming from. In adverse conditions, for example if rain is pounding down, the warning decibel level will be increased.
Emily Hardy is UK marketing manager, Brigade Electronics