The pioneering use by Atkins of the Penny Hydraulics Grid Lift to make it safer for gully tanker drivers to handle heavy drain covers has been recognised by two of the industry’s leading awards events in recent months. First, the company won the Highways Agency Health & Safety at Work Award at the CIHT Awards in June. In October the company won the Highway Operative & Site Safety Initiative Award at the Highways Magazine Excellence Awards.
The Grid Lift is used by tanker drivers to remove and replace heavy covers without manual handling when they are inspecting and cleaning roadside gullies and drains during highways maintenance. Since it installed the first Penny Hydraulics Grid Lift on its gully tankers in Somerset three years ago Atkins has introduced this innovative handling device into five more contracts it operates for local authorities throughout the UK. These include the contracts at Gloucestershire County Council, BANES (Bath and North East Somerset) and three other locations.
"Winning these awards recognises the achievements we’ve made in bringing health and safety to the fore for our operatives in Somerset," says Simon White, Contract Director for Highways Services at Atkins. "We’ve reduced reportable accidents related to gully cleaning operations to zero where before they accounted for around one third of incidents across the contract.
"We now introduce the Grid Lift into new contracts as we take them over. It’s become part of our standard way of working."
The original requirement for the Grid Lift was to provide tanker crews with a safe and efficient method of lifting gully covers out of the way to provide clear access during cleaning and maintenance operations. These covers can weigh tens of kilograms and were previously lifted in and out of position by hand. Around 30 per cent of reportable accidents involving gully crews in the Somerset Highways Contract area were related to gully handling. Employees were prone to back injuries and other long-term disabilities as a result of the amount of lifting they had to do day-to-day. A desire to provide staff with a safer and more practical handling method coupled with incoming health and safety legislation led Atkins to seek out a better solution.
Penny Hydraulics worked with Atkins to develop the Grid Lift concept. Atkins now routinely installs the device on its growing fleet of gully tankers and has embedded its use into its standard ways of working on most recent new contracts. Gully tanker drivers are trained to use the device and it also features in videos and other material produced by the company for its employees.
"It’s proved to be a highly effective tool to help our tanker crews do their jobs more safely and easily," says Simon White.
The Grid Lift is based on a standard Penny Hydraulics Swing Lift 250 knuckle jointed crane which means it can be installed in many positions on the chassis to provide tanker builders and operators with much greater flexibility in the vehicle configuration. A hydraulic cylinder with a special frame attachment is mounted vertically on the end of the crane. The knuckle joint configuration allows the frame to be positioned anywhere within an 835mm radius of the mounting point for precise and accurate lifting. Once in position the frame is connected securely to the gully cover using simple twist-locking keys that can accommodate different profile castings. The cover is then lifted upwards and the whole device swung to one side to provide operatives with clear and unobstructed access to the gully or drain for safe and efficient inspection, maintenance and cleaning. The cover is replaced in the reverse operation.
The Grid Lift’s fully-hydraulic action ensures all movements are smooth and precise for the best possible combination of performance and safety. There is no need for any manual handling of the cover and the entire process can be completed in around two minutes at each gully so that there is no impact on daily clearing rates and overall productivity. The whole unit folds away unobtrusively when not in use and is held securely in the retracted position by two independent locking pins to comply with health and safety regulations when the vehicle is moving.