Think about operator safety



Think Operator: by Gary Lambert, Industrial and Waste Specialist

Operators in the industrial and waste sectors have one of the toughest jobs in the plant industry, working in some of the harshest environments and conditions. So it’s imperative that the industry as a whole looks at ways of making it easier for existing operators and more attractive for others to work in the sector.

We all know that a good operator can make a huge difference to the bottom line, typically delivering greater productivity, for less fuel, in a much safer way. Often a very good operator can actually pay for themselves in efficiency gains, when directly compared to others. So what can be done to help operators and what role does the industry have to play in delivering this support?

There are clear opportunities for increasing diversification, whilst protecting operators from the everyday environments in which they work. For example, when it comes to new product development, both Caterpillar and Komptech are embracing the likes of cab to ground technology on key products.

Why is this important? Well for operators it achieves a number of plus points. It shows that the industry is committed to their Health and Safety at work, supporting the recently launched CIWM Charter. It also helps to make this type of plant equipment more attractive to skilled individuals, who may be put off by access issues.

Additionally, day-to-day checks and operations that can often be quite difficult, like cleaning the cab glass, all of a sudden become much simpler. Even practical tasks, like familiarisation training on new equipment become easier, as multiple operators can be trained safely in the cab, while it is grounded.

Even though they have a lot of advantages, it’s important to understand that cab to ground solutions are just one part of the machine and operator mix. With long shift patterns typical in the industry, a move away from steering wheels to new joystick controls, quieter engines and ergonomically designed cabs, will all have a positive impact on operators.

One of the quickest wins in the industry for operators is how we deal with the ‘Clean Air’ issue in the waste environment. No matter where you work with mobile plant in the waste sector there is always dust and in a high number of cases, strong odours to deal with. These both have a potentially detrimental effect to operator health and performance. They are also the first major stumbling block in attracting operators into the waste industry. Here action can be taken immediately, without the need to wait for new clean air technologies, which are being incorporated into future waste equipment.

By retrofitting systems like the RESPA clean air solution to existing equipment, the operator environment can be instantly changed for the better. With more and more of these systems now being used in the industry, it won’t be long before legislation or simply lack of operator availability, will drive the sector down the cleaner air route.

Having talked to many operators, the final major issue they want employers to consider, is how to improve access and egress, to reduce the incidents of trips and slips that are most prevalent in the waste sector. This issue can also be tackled now, as bespoke access and egress solutions can be designed and retrofitted for a whole range of equipment, improving the overall operator experience. So no matter what the application, businesses really need to think about the operator first and recognise that they are the most important assets when it comes to mobile plant.