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A guide to Telehandler Safety

Telehandlers are one of the most versatile pieces of construction equipment, making a significant contribution to the construction industry. The development of Telehandlers in both capacity and reach, to the stage where they are able to carry out tasks traditionally undertaken by mobile and tower cranes present new challenges. Unfortunately, this very versatility that makes these machines so functional also provides a platform for unsafe use.

All operations on construction sites should be carefully planned to ensure that they are carried out safely and that all foreseeable risks have been identified. When using a Telehandler, extra provision must be taken to improve site safety. Poor planning is one of the main causes of accidents involving the use of Telehandlers. The safe operation of Telehandlers depends on a number of factors, but there are a few key checks you should implement to improve Telehandler safety, reducing the likelihood of costly damage to the machine and surrounding personnel. 

Pre-start Checks

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Telehandler safety starts with a carefully planned approach. Before starting work on a job site, conducting a visual inspection of the work site is crucial to determining potential hazards to improve Telehandler safety. Potholes, irregular terrain, mud holes and construction debris are just a few examples of terrain obstacles you will likely encounter. Also, blowing a tire during travel or whilst elevating a load can cause the load to drop, making it essential to visually inspect the machine and its surroundings before commencing any work. 

High voltage lines

A pre-start visual check of the area must also identify the location of any possible obstructions such as electrical lines, bridges or tunnels. In fact, many construction sites erect temporary lines to power construction tools, making it essential that a thorough check of the entire lifting zone is undertaken to ensure Telehandler safety.Since Telehandlers move materials to elevated heights, the number of options an operator has may be few. Operators can manoeuvre under them, around them or have them shut down (power lines). Since shutting down the power is usually not an option, it's up to the operator to avoid the lines, often mapping traverse routes so the machine stays as far away as possible when transporting or elevating the load.

These steps are a good first step to improve Telehandler safety, however best practice would be to employ a movement limiting device (MLD) such a slew or height limiter to physically restrict the machine from exceeding the safe working zone. These can be fitted to a range of construction equipment types and are a significant step forward in safeguarding both your machinery and site workers.

Load/Lateral stability

Lateral stability is often a major issue when it comes to Telehandler safety, especially when used for lifting and travelling operations. Any load, whether it is drywall, bricks, lumber, concrete blocks or any other construction material should be matched to the right machine. Have a look at the lift charts that are placed inside the Telehandler cab and plan around them. Most machines used for lifting operations have indicators on the boom that correspond to marks or letters on the lift chart,  allowing you to calculate how much weight can be lifted to maximum elevation.When transporting a load is essential to remember that anything that increases momentum significantly affects Telehandler safety. Speed, turning radius, acceleration or braking (if not done slowly) will increase momentum. Any load shift, especially at an elevated position, can be a serious work hazard with serious implications, should things go wrong. In some circumstances, legislation even states that the machine must be fitted with a system known as a Rated Capacity Indicator (RCI) or safe load indicator (SLI) to monitor/control the load on the machine.