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There are rules and regs and common sense and protocols and any number of other factors that go into safety, but arguably one of the most important is the ability to be proactive. It’s that ability that spurred Randy Hansen into action. Instead of accepting that fall protection was the best practice for him, he designed a piece of equipment that theoretically will take ‘fall protection’ to ‘fall prevention’.
“We’re in the fuel hauling business for Weibe Transport – I’m the shop supervisor and of course fall protection is mandated by OH&S,” said Hansen. “Rather than the traditional approach to fall protection which means everybody tries to catch you after you fall, I found that to be a rather silly way to look at fall protection, I set out to devise a way to prevent the fall rather than catch you after you fall.”
The result was the RAP (Retractable Access Platform). It’s, simply put, a retractable fence mounted on a scissor lift that is deployed to prevent falls. It’s not complicated and Hansen says that in comparison to the more traditional approach of brining in an engineer to deal with anchor poles and cables, his approach has cost benefits and efficiencies the engineered approach does not.
“Typically, a scissor lift is within it’s own right a platform. You can work over the side so you reach over the railing from the scissor lift and do work. In our business, because we work on hatches on top of tanks, sensors that type of thing, we are actually standing on top of our work surface so what we needed was something that creates the corral around us and is not in fact a platform under us.
“Essentially, you pull the scissor lift up beside the tank, a walkway or platform folds down and it rests on the tank. Now that gives you access out onto the tank, and then a railing system unfolds and that extends out over the tank area,” said Hansen.
A very standard scissor lift with a 30-inch width was chosen so that it was maneuverable in the confines it was likely to be needed in. Other things like this exist, said Hansen, but they are three-wheel extendable ladders, with a fixed platform.
“The problem with that is that it takes another bay,” said Hansen. The RAP allows someone to work in the space a mechanic would pull his toolbox into.
It’s a completely simple and completely different approach that yields a multifunction piece of equipment that, of which one component is or should be a standard piece of equipment, he explained.
After dreaming about the initial idea, Hansen went to his employer who gave his blessing to proceed. Hansen had a welder work up what turned out to be a very successful prototype.
“We went ahead and build two more,” said Hansen. There were then three Weibe shops, each with its own RAP. Safety officers investigated the prototypes said Hansen who reports it was given a safety approval.
An engineer was also brought in to check the RAP out with similar positive results. The engineer, said Hansen, said he could engineer the RAP at which point the apparatus was validated.
The process from idea to manufacture isn’t always as simple as the idea and in this case, Hansen said he found it helpful to have an educated organization on his side when it came to developing his idea, particularly in terms of getting a patent.
At this stage, the RAP has been engineered and is patent pending and Hansen hopes others will see this in the same way he does – as a fully functioning safety innovation.
“We’re prepared now to release a circular on it, of course, presentation is a big part of any game and we want to do that right,” said Hansen.