Safety at Konecranes part 1
Winning begins with putting safety first
Putting safety first is as critical to Valtteri Bottas as it is to Konecranes. In this article, we look at the parallels between Valtteri’s world and ours, examining the importance of well-designed safety procedures and equipment in both motorsports and the lifting business.
Valtteri Bottas started racing go-karts when he was just four years old. Now he’s 28 and living his childhood dream of becoming a professional racing driver. Anyone who spends their life as Valtteri does – driving cars at speeds of more than 300 km/h – will tell you that while winning is important, safety always comes first.
In both the racing world and in the lifting business, safety is a core value not only for people operating equipment, but also for others in an area where vehicles or machinery may be moving. On the track, as in the warehouse, or at ports and terminals, it’s not just the driver or the operator who needs to stay safe – it’s the whole team.
Safety is and always has been part of who we are at Konecranes. We want to make sure our employees go home safely each night, and we want to increase safety for anyone operating lifting equipment.
The importance of risk assessment
To assist in assessing the safety risks in a lifting environment, Konecranes provides its field service technicians with what we call a Point of Work Risk Assessment (PoWRA). This is a standardized global template for identifying, assessing and mitigating risks and hazards at the point of work.
By carefully answering the questions listed in the PoWRA, technicians can make job sites safer. The PoWRA requires them to observe a tried-and-tested methodology for workplace safety: stop, think, apply control measures, select protective equipment, and complete an end-of-day verification that informs the customer that the workplace has been returned to its original condition.
Motorsports organizers thoroughly assess risks too, so when Valtteri is racing he can be confident that any potential safety hazards have been evaluated. Drivers can also raise any concerns at a pre-race briefing, discussing things like dips in the track, curbs that may be too high, or other safety issues they may have noticed during qualifying.
Safer all the time
The safety features in any environment – including motorsports and the lifting business – usually evolve over time. Often the changes are brought about by learning from incidents that could have been avoided; but advances in materials and design can also play an important role in the evolution of safety features.
Take the cockpit of Valtteri’s racing car, for example. Today, drivers sit in what’s known as a “monocoque.” This is an extremely strong protective cocoon moulded to an individual driver’s body, surrounded by structures and materials that are designed to absorb energy in the event of an impact. The moncoque design has evolved over many decades, with the result that new racing cars are a great deal safer than the cars of yesterday.
Konecranes also continuously develops its products and services to improve the safety of lifting equipment. New features can even be added to customers’ existing machinery as a modernization or retrofit. Modernizations can enhance ergonomics, apply new safety features or add newer technology, while retrofits are a relatively easy and economical way to add modern features and technologies to an existing overhead crane. Retrofits can enhance crane safety and ease-of-use with improved control interfaces and components.
Safer lighting, smarter features
One such example is the Konecranes LED lighting retrofit, which is designed to replace existing crane lights. LED lighting illuminates a task far better for the operator, while also making it less likely they will be blinded by light when looking at the load. Another example is our radio remote control upgrade. This provides free movement for the operator and better load visibility, while improved ergonomics reduce strain and fatigue – making operations safer.
Our Smart Features can be added to both old and new cranes. These are Konecranes-designed add-ons that work together or individually to improve safety, cycle time and load positioning. They add intelligence to the crane with purpose-built software and hardware that assists the operator in controlling crane movements. Features include sway control, snag prevention, assisted load turning, and hook centring, as well as the ability to define working limits, load positioning and protected areas.
Staying safe from fire
Finally, a word about fire safety, as this is an area where Valtteri’s sport has made some of its biggest advances over the years. With fuel-laden cars going at such extreme speeds, engines and other parts get extremely hot during a race – creating a serious risk of fire.
To help mitigate this risk, all the cars are equipped with a fire suppression system that can be activated by the driver or race marshals, spreading fire retardant foam around the chassis and engine. In addition, Valtteri and other drivers – as well as their service teams – need to wear fire-resistant boots, gloves and helmets designed to protect from fire for at least 12 seconds.
At Konecranes, we have a similar emphasis on Personal Protective Equipment (or PPE), and require our employees servicing lifting equipment to use appropriate head, eye, hand and foot protection; high visibility clothing with flame retardant properties; safety harnesses; and even respirators when necessary.
This article is the first in a two-part series highlighting safety at Konecranes. In the next piece, we look at some of the data-driven features and internet-connected technologies that are aimed at further increasing safety in both motorsports and the lifting business.