Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  23 Feb 2009

CONSTRUCTION: Where Safety Rules


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SA French has managed to keep pricing on its tower crane and telehandler ranges competitive in spite of massive fluctuations in the exchange rate and steel price increases. “We take a philosophy of pre-planning and anticipating market tends so that we always have stock on the floor. With most European suppliers having lead times of between six months and a year, it’s vital to stay a few steps ahead of the game,” says CEO Quentin van Breda.

Van Breda points out that Potain is the only tower crane manufacturer worldwide to follow the extreme measure of ‘wrecking’ its new models before bringing them to market. “This sounds really radical but after the development of a new product, Potain takes it to the test centre where it is linked up to a myriad computers via probes inserted into various parts of the crane. It is then run 24 hours a day to emulate the service hours normally recorded over a 10 year period. Thereafter it is further run until it literally breaks down.

“Only in this way do Potain engineers believe they can iron out any potential ‘weak spots’ on their machines. The machine is then taken to pieces and microscopically analysed to determine the cause/s for failure and at what percentage overload these occurred. This then allows them to factor in all eventualities in order to produce a crane that is virtually indestructible,” van Breda explains.

Van Breda says the emphasis on safety in lifting equipment has been given teeth by the Department of Labour through the introduction in 2003 of the LME (Lifting Machinery Entity) certification for companies involved in supplying lifting equipment and LMI (Lifting Machinery Inspector) status for individuals responsible for testing lifting equipment. “SA French was the first crane company in the market to receive LME status, and in addition, all seven of our crew leaders have obtained their LMI accreditation.

Van Breda says the safety system on all of the company’s cranes incorporates a number of standard features including:

• An overload protection system on the hoist to stop the crane ever exceeding the specified loads

• The structure has a moment overload protection system

• There is a limit switch on the jib trolley

• Slew limit system

• Limit switches on the rail travelling cranes

• Hook up and down limit switches.

All these features are integrated into the crane’s drive computer and will not allow the crane to proceed if any of these predetermined limits are exceeded. The system will allow the operator to lower a load or trolley it in but will not allow the operator to lift a load beyond the limits or trolley out.

“In terms of safety, the Merlo telehandlers are one of the most comprehensively equipped. “They have an overload device on the rear axle which disallows the operator entering what is deemed a dangerous scenario.”

“The Merlo telehandlers have in-house designed and manufactured road axles which have a greater ground clearance than many other telehandlers on the market. “This means that there is much less likelihood of the operator hitting an obstruction that may not be visible,” he says.

The company has a THETA (Transport Seta) accredited training centre and can provide THETA-accredited training for crane and telehandler operators. “We can train operators both at our in-house facility as well as on site. This capability, combined with the inherent safety systems on our products, make lifting of loads with SA French products an attractive option,” he says.

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