THE MANUAL handling regulations have spurred a host of innovations with exhibitors at SED showing equipment to reduce the risk of injury.
Equipment firms are rushing to offer contractors ways to meet the regulations and increase productivity. Kerb laying was the focus for a wide range of mechanical, hydraulic and vacuum handling devices.
Exhibitors said demand for such equipment was set to soar as contractors seek to avoid the attentions of safety inspectors.
Tony Cook, marketing manager for civils contractor FM Conway, which launched its own machine at the show, said:
'People have started to panic. It has dawned on them that they need something to meet the regulations and mechanical handling will start to be written into tender documents.'
The French-built machine, which Conway described as the 'Rolls-Royce of kerb lifting', comprises a telescopic forklift, a four-in-one bucket, a compressor line for a breaker and a 400 kg-capacity vacuum kerb lifter.The £50,000 machine can lay up to 6 m of kerb before moving but it can also be tracked back and forth from outside the cab.
Mr Cook said: 'We believe people will be able to lay up to 300 m of kerb in a day. It also has a failsafe device which lowers the boom slowly to the ground in the event of failure. Once it picks something up, it won't drop it, even if the engine fails.
'We have 14 term maintenance contracts with London councils and there often isn't room in city sites for several different machines. It does not have to be a smooth surface, so it will even take a sleeper and has automatic levelling so the load is always horizontal.Kerb-layers work in threeman gangs, so using the machine will save one worker, who can be released for other work or to form another gang.'
Bristol equipment dealer Molson Holdings reported significant interest in its MHKL05 vacuum device, which runs off a 12 V motor powered by a mini excavator's battery.
The device, developed by Molson engineer Farid Allaouat, comes as a £4,500 package together with a set of forks which fit on the dozer blade to turn the mini into a pallet-lifting forklift.One of the benefits, according to Mr Allaouat, is that contractors no longer have to wait for a specific forklift operator.He said: 'Kerb laying teams are always waiting for materials to be delivered. Putting the forks on the mini excavator means the materials are there when you need them.The vacuum lift can also be folded up like a bicycle and put into the van.'
He said a worker using the device together with a mini operator can lay up to 300 kerbs a day. He said: 'Contractors charge around £5.50 per kerb, which means it does not take long for the machine to pay for itself.'