Stepping Up

Automated loading of ladders has never been easier – Delivery checks out the ErgoRack

Australia leads the world in transport efficiency, but we do have a tendency not to take advantage of labour saving equipment when we have the muscle on hand to complete a task manually.

In recent years there have of course been changes in the workplace, with restrictions on lifting heavy equipment or loads manually.

Although the regulations do not actually specify a maximum weight, the Occupational Health & Safety Regs of 2007 require the employer to identify any tasks that involves hazardous manual handling, and then take action to either eliminate or reduce the hazard and/or associated risks.

The British-based ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) does go further, recommending that in above shoulder lifting, a male should not lift items heavier than 10 kg, and for a woman that weight reduces to 7 kg. This maximum weight is further reduced for objects that need to be held away from the body to 5 kg for males and 3 kg for women.ErgoRack_7

The European light-commercial market is much more in tune with purpose-built fit-outs to provide racking and storage systems inside vans than we are in Australia. Although there are signs that in recent years more attention is being paid to building in proper storage systems and workspaces, all too often the loading of a van interior is left to who can push the largest load inside, rather than how to best utilise the space available.

Vehicle roof-mounted ladder rack systems have been around for as long, as the need to transport ladders to the work site. They vary in complexity from two simple bars mounted on the rainwater drip rails across the van roof, to more complex systems with rollers that enable a ladder to be lifted, placed, slid and pushed into position.

For some tradespeople, this is reasonably straight forward, especially where only a small, lightweight ladder is involved. But the task becomes much more difficult as the size and weight of the ladder increases, together with the increasing height availability of imported van roofs.

How would you approach this issue, however, if you had a large, heavy, fibreglass extension ladder – or a number of them – to transport to the work site? Or, much worse, what if you were driving a light-commercial van (LCV) and the only place to stack them was on the roof of the vehicle, which in some cases could be 2.5 metres or more from the ground?

For most LCV vehicle owners, the traditional answer involves manually lifting the ladder to the rear or side of the vehicle, and, in a separate action, lifting/thrusting it up to the top of the vehicle’s roof.

This exercise is inherently dangerous and exposes the operator to a variety of hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck, and upper and lower back injuries.

In the event of a successful and uneventful load, and where the ladder is properly aligned or positioned on the roof, the ladder then needs to be secured to the ladder rack system to prevent it from shifting whilst the vehicle is in driving operation. Generally, this is achieved via the aid of a rear towbar or step platform in which the operator is required to scale the rear parts of the vehicle in order to reach the ladder tethering method.

ErgoRack_4Again, this feat requires a degree of manual dexterity and exertion in order to jostle the ladder into position upon the roof-mounted ladder rack system, so as to effect proper securing. Completing the task also exposes the operator to further risk of injury.

Generally, these rear platforms do not meet the prescribed Australian standards for either platform width or height from the ground. Additionally, these external vehicle accessory parts are exposed to the elements and are prone to deterioration. And, to make matters worse, these platforms probably do not meet any anti-slip surface guidelines.

There’s also the risk involved for any employee working from the rear of any vehicle, where loading or unloading requires the operator to walk backwards into the line of traffic, sight unseen.

If, as an employer, you believe in the principle that if something can go wrong it will, then you need to consider what steps to take, and which equipment to use, to prevent an accident happening in your workplace with your employees. If you don’t take the necessary action to prevent an accident you can be penalised legally, plus of course there is every chance one of your employees may become injured and lose time off work.

Fortunately, there are solutions, and it’s here that the European market has been ahead of our domestic fleets by adding specialised, purpose-built self-loading/unloading ladder rack systems such as the ErgoRack.

The ErgoRack is distributed throughout Australia by Milford, the well-known specialists in providing load safety systems such as cargo racks and driver safety screens between the cabin and cargo area.

The ErgoRack system has been recognised globally for its ability, winning a swag of awards such as the Best Safety Product on Display – NSW Electricity Supply Industry Field Days – 2011, plus global recognition such as the Upfitter Innovation Award USA 2001, German Innovation Award Bundespreis 2009, and Préventica Innovation Award 2011 in France.

ErgoRack provides a well-considered mechanical design: this ladder lift brings the ladder – with a handle operated from the ground – up and down from the roof rack system to the side of the vehicle at the correct ergonomic height.ErgoRack_8

With the patented Auto Clamp, the ladder is fixed for safe transport with one single touch, without any additional straps.

The physical stress of loading a ladder onto a vehicle roof when using the ErgoRack system is reduced by about 70 percent. Access and ability to load and unload is also unaffected when working in tight confines, such as in restricted areas alongside walls and on building sites.

The patented S-Clamp offers an economic solution for vehicles up to 2.1 m high. The ladder is automatically secured with a manually operated handle. The hook at the front of the rack assists the operator to control lifting up or lowering down the ladder from the roof. With the two hooks in the upright position, the ladder is securely fixed for safe transport. The security of the ladder can also be ensured by an additional padlock.

ErgoRack can be installed on both sides of the roof, with operation from the right and/or left-hand side of the vehicle. It is generally installed on gutters or existing tie-in-points, with or without additional adapter channels, which absorb additional impact in case of accidents. This greatly enhances the residual value in case of leasing the vehicles.

The corrosion free aluminium design of ErgoRack is 100 percent eco-friendly and easy on the environment.

Ladders weighing up to 35 kg can be carried on “ErgoRack Rotation”. For heavier ladders weighing up to 55 kg the “ErgoRack Inclined” provides the best solution. High roof configurations use a slide to lower the ladder to the correct ergonomic height for loading or unloading.

Once an ErgoRack system has been installed there are also further benefits to load management available, thanks to a wide range of accessories such as lightweight, aerodynamic and lockable conduit tubes for long material; a roller at the rear for easy handling of long material; and beacon brackets or cargo stops for the crossbars.

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