According to data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), construction worker fatalities in the UK dropped by more than a third in 2016/17, reaching an all-time annual low. Here, Tony Young, director at CP Automation, explains why these findings may be partly down to the industry embracing new ways of working — including equipment like radio controlled cranes.
Cab-controlled cranes have long dominated the industrial landscape, with the operator sitting in the crane, being guided by hand signals from a floor walker. This advanced slightly to machines controlled by pushbutton pendants, involving a transmitter unit hanging from the crane by a cable being controlled by someone on the floor. However, this still tethers the operator to the crane and restricts movement.
This is where radio crane control comes in. A handheld, cordless unit allows operators to remain on the facility floor, out of range of load swings and potentially dropped loads. It means that if lifting is taking place in hazardous areas, such as hot, noisy or radioactive environments, operators are kept safe, well away from the area.
Freedom of movement
The cordless flexibility means the operator is able to move to a much better location for visibility, rather than remaining limited to the field of view of the cab, or the length of the pendant cable. With this increased visibility, on foot and away from the load, the operator can clearly see a load shift and determine whether the load is properly rigged before continuing. They can also adapt quickly to any obstructions or changes in the path as the move is completed.
Equally, with the operator on foot, communication is greatly enhanced. The need for hand and voice signals between the operator and spotter is eliminated. Operators are closer to spotters, and can easily hear and act on what they are saying more quickly.
From an efficiency standpoint, floor operation may even eliminate the need for additional assistance on the floor completely. A single operator could also manage some of the operations with below-the-hook attachments such as magnets, grabs, or C-hooks, reducing labour costs.
To help with this shift from cab controlled cranes to safer, radio controlled systems, CP Automation, is now supplying its customers with stock from Magnetek.
Cranes can be fitted with both CP Automation and Magnetek products as an integrated package, including power delivery systems, collision avoidance systems, radio remote control transmitters, motor gearboxes, failsafe brakes and variable frequency drives (VFDs). Together, these products allow cranes to move heavy structures with sufficient power, control and intelligence, as well as increasing safety with remote control.
Andy Swann from Magnetek commented, "We are seeing more and more crane original equipment manufacturers moving away from in-cab operators and opting for radio remote control, whereby the operator is at a safe distance away from heavy loads. This means much more aggressive materials can be handled during a project, and the operator is kept at a safe distance, controlling the crane from afar."
While data into the safety of the construction industry is moving in the right direction, as collected by HSE, there is still room for improvement. As this shift towards radio control cranes progresses, the industry will continue to advance its safety procedures and protect its workforce.