Telehandlers are an awesome solution when it comes to construction operations, however you’ve got a lot of things to consider when using attachments to get the job done.
The majority of telehandler accidents occur because of improper load calculations and misreading the load chart. Unlike a typical masted forklift, you also have to consider the arc of the load movement when raising and lowering the boom of a telescopic truck. This has a great effect on the overall forklift capacity at different positions. Then add in the capacity restrictions of various attachments.
Yes, there are a wide variety of attachments and variations and they all add new dynamic factors to the job. However, let’s review two of the most popular and some of the considerations you have to make when using them.
A man basket or personnel platform attachment is a great solution when you don’t have a scissor lift, boom lift or a rough terrain personnel work platform to get the job done. According ANSI Regulations that is really the only time you are supposed to use a man basket and telehandler; when there is no other available solution.
There are some differences when it comes to the overall operation but the most important one is that in a man basket you cannot control the machine from the basket. The operator must remain in the cab while workers are in the basket. With this in mind it is absolutely crucial to establish and maintain an effective means of communication between the operator and the personnel in the basket. Radios, hand signals, a complex mixture of both, whatever works, just be consistent!
Know your load chart!
Seriously, know your load chart. Make sure you understand and actually calculate capacity properly. Man baskets have a significantly lower capacity than forks and the load must be calculated differently than what a standard load chart shows. This is VITAL! Load with forks is typically calculated using a 48 inch cube base and a 24 inch load centre however a man basket or platform is nearly always above and beyond this load centre and is generally constantly in motion. You must factor in the capacity changes at different heights and angles then factor the weight of the platform, the personnel and their tools and supplies. A lot of times the weight alone of those three things will be more than the allowed capacity at a specific height and angle. A single worker with a tool belt can be more than 300 lbs.! Two guys plus a man basket and additional tools can be more than 1500 lbs. and you are only rated at 1000 lbs. capacity at height. Do the math then the work!
Tipping, toppling and overturning, oh my!
So what if these two guys move to one side of the platform and you are over capacity? Oops! You tipped! How about you are on uneven ground and you didn’t use outriggers and frame levelling? The machine overturned! Or you were driving with personnel in the basket and you hit a bump? Oh dear they toppled out! You have to remember that as the boom is raised it moves the centre of gravity and causes instability. There is also a lot of bounce and play in the boom both during driving and while attempting to change the angle. OHSA Regulations state that you cannot move or drive a forklift with people in the platform. There is a significant reliance on the operator to make the correct judgement when it comes to safety and corrections. Ensure that you have a plan and your workers are trained.
Jibs and slings
The same rules generally apply here. You must still ensure that you know and understand the proper load chart for the particular telehandler as well as consider the attachment capacity allowances, arc of movement, and what that jib or sling is rated for. Just don’t forget that swing and long/bulky loads also play a key roll in your material handling success. Always use the right attachment for the materials, don’t use chains or slings hanging off forks to move or lift a load and ensure that you utilize the stabilizers or outriggers so the unit doesn’t tip over.
Here’s what you should know when travelling with a suspended load:
- Ensure your chains are the right length so the load can be transported as low to the ground as possible
- Retract the boom as far as possible without interfering with the operation/visibility of the telehandler
- If visibility is low or obstructed, use a guide and make sure they are visible to the operator
- Travel low and slow
- Minimize load swing by going slow and being delicate with the controls
- When braking or turning- dynamic forces transfer through the boom and decrease stability
- Follow the manufacturers recommendations for inclines and slopes
- Be aware and assess your environment- overhead obstructions and wires, wind, ground conditions, path obstructions
So ask yourself…
How safe are you when operating a telescopic boom with an attachment? Do you have a solid plan and the proper training to get the job done?
Telehandlers are versatile machines and many newer models come with a number of safety features and aids but you have to remember that in the end it is down to the operator to make sure that safety is the priority.