Quick Hitch Roadshows

L. Lynch Plant Hire has marked its switch to new generation dual pin capture quick hitches by calling on other construction industry personnel to help improve site and equipment safety - and prevent serious injuries and fatalities.

The company is currently investing around £1.4m in replacing the fully automatic hitches on its entire 500-strong excavator fleet with Auto-Loc 3 dual pin capture quick hitches manufactured by Ireland-based Hill Engineering, through Hill's 'new for old' exchange scheme, and will complete the upgrade by February 2010.

Hill is also supporting Lynch in the road shows to explain how the advanced technology in its fully automatic Auto-Loc 3 model works, by not only doing away with the need to manually insert a locking pin, as with semi-automatic hitches, but also providing fully independent locking.

This means that if the operator fails to connect the attachment properly with the back pin, the front pin will remain securely locked in place, ensuring that the attachment does not accidentally become detached.

Lynch Plant Hire director Rob Lynch has already hosted around a dozen road shows on sites operated by major contractors such as Skanska, Bam Nuttall and Balfour Beatty. He said that not only was there interest in how the automatic dual pin capture hitches work, but participants were also extremely keen to find out how they can help to reduce site and equipment accidents.

He said: “Automatic dual pin capture hitches are the single-most important progression in quick hitch safety because they ensure that both pins are totally secure, which all but eliminates the chance of unintentional bucket or attachment separation.

“However, they are not an absolute solution because, as always, there still remains the potential for human error, either from the machine operators themselves or somebody outside the cab getting too close to working equipment.

“Safety on site is everyone’s responsibility, so it was clear to us that while Lynch can certainly play its part by continually upgrading our equipment and operator training to the very highest possible industry standard, we should work closely with contractors and on-site personnel to help establish correct and safe operating practices.”

The Lynch Quick Hitch Safety Road Show takes a three-pronged approach, by outlining the correct procedures for safe hitch usage, establishing the need for proper and responsible hitch maintenance and determining the correct management and performance of people in and round the excavator.

The issue of quick hitch safety still remains high on the industry agenda following a spate of injuries and deaths over the last few years due to buckets becoming accidentally detached and striking workers – a problem generally attributed to incorrect operator use.

In a bid to improve site safety, a number of major contractors, such as Skanska, have already banned all non dual pin capture hitches. This exceeds the agreement between the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and the main European quick hitch manufacturers, which means that new semi-automatic hitches will no longer be supplied to the UK market.

Lynch operates an excavator fleet comprising of one-tonne to 45-tonne machines from Volvo and Komatsu and has an unblemished safety record stretching back 30 years. It provides its operators with extra quick hitch training, even beyond that already undertaken as a matter of course by Hill, as well as carrying out special training for outside contractors using its machines.

All qualified Lynch operators are issued with a Lynch Quick Hitch Competence card, which they carry alongside their Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card for inspection on site.

L. Lynch Plant Hire was established in 1980 and has since grown to become one of the leading names in the UK plant hire industry. With three main depots across the UK, its machines are currently in use on major highways, rail and utility projects.

Rob Lynch said: “The events held so far have been extremely successful in spreading the site safety message, as well as helping us to further evolve our quick hitch operating and safety procedures using the feedback we continue to receive. We are extremely proud of our excellent safety record, which is a legacy of always insisting on proper in-depth training, together with a continuing investment in any measures that will help prevent accidents and save lives.

“This is why we have chosen to replace all our existing hitches with Hill’s dual pin capture automatic models. Not only are they fully tried and tested products, but Hill has provided us with a first-class service - nothing has been too much trouble for them.”

Not only does the Hill Auto-Loc 3 automatic hitch ensure that there is no need for an operator to leave the cab to change attachments, it also allows them to visually confirm from within the cab that the bucket or other attachment is securely locked in position.

It complies with all existing UK and international safety standards and legislation by ensuring attachments can only be released when the boom is in a safe working position and it is also universal, allowing the fitting of a mixed range of attachments such as hammers and rippers.

Ian Hill, Managing Director of Hill Engineering, said: “As a leading quick hitch, bucket and excavator attachment manufacturer, we share Lynch Plant Hire’s dedication to improving safety on the UK’s construction sites and so had no hesitation in participating in the road shows to ensure the proper use and maintenance of our hitches.

“A strong commitment to improve quick hitch safety has developed within the industry, particularly after a number of high profile incidents over the past few years in which failure to properly use traditional models has, in some cases, resulted in serious injuries and fatalities.

“At Hill Engineering safety has always been an overriding priority, which is why we developed the Auto-Loc range of quick couplers incorporating dual pin capture technology back in 2005. With the proven track record of safety and reliability, we believe the Auto-Loc range to be the safest and best-engineered quick hitch on the market today.

“We very much welcome an initiative such as the Lynch Quick Hitch Road Show, which sends out the message that by using the best and most up–to-date equipment technology, combined with comprehensive training and the implementation of correct on-site safety procedures, there is no longer any need for lives to be put at risk.”

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