Telescopic materials handlers (telehandlers)
As with all lifting equipment, work with telehandlers should be properly planned and the risks assessed to ensure the work can be carried out safely.
Most machines feature a side-mounted cab, with the boom mounted to the right of the machine chassis. The operator’s view from the cab may be obstructed or ‘masked’ by the boom, cab pillars and other parts of the structure. Restricted visibility from the cab can also be a problem when reversing and when lifting large loads. Some machines have a centrally mounted cab and boom. These pivot steer or articulated machines are known as teleloaders.
Telehandlers and teleloaders should only be driven by authorised, trained and competent people who have completed appropriate training and testing (see HSE Approved Code of Practice L117 in ‘Find out more’).
Hazards associated with machine operation
- overturning – during travel or when lifting, on slopes or flat ground;
- electrocution – from contact with OHPLs;
- unsecured loads falling from height, eg bales;
- using inappropriate, or poorly maintained handling attachments;
- unsafe procedures, eg using a grain bucket to push in fence posts;
- people falling from height, eg when using attachments as work platforms;
- attachments not secured properly or becoming detached in use
- unintended movement of the machine.
Before using a machine
- Make sure it is of a type suitable for the environment in which it is to be used and is capable of performing the required tasks safely;
- attachments are suitable, compatible with the machine, properly maintained and safe to use;
- visibility aids such as mirrors are in good condition and properly adjusted, and the cab windows are clean. The glass for the window nearest the boom must always be intact to prevent the risk of crushing from the boom;
- the machine is properly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations;
- the operator is familiar with the controls and has read and understood the operator’s manual;
- all recommended pre-use checks have been carried out, including a check that the overload indicator is in working order;
- the machine is fitted with a lap belt or similar operator restraint
- wherever possible, pedestrians are separated from telehandler operations.
When using a telehandler
- travel with the boom lowered to make sure that the centre of gravity of the machine and the load is as low as possible to maximise stability;
- carefully choose routes to avoid OHPLs, very steep slopes or gradients and slippery or loose surfaces;
- adopt the correct driving direction and travelling position for negotiating a slope or gradient, eg when a load is carried the load should face uphill. When no load is carried the fork arms should face downhill;
- avoid turning on or traversing a slope or gradient and always descend straight down the gentlest gradient of a slope, instead of driving diagonally across it;
- avoid stacking/de-stacking a load on a slope or gradient where you can;
- use suitable scotches or supports if any work has to be carried out under a raised boom.
The operator should always look around and check for the presence of pedestrians before moving off and while manoeuvring and travelling.
Drivers of loaders, lift trucks and telescopic handlers suffer from poor forward visibility when carrying loads in front of them. Position the load so it does not obscure your vision. If this is not possible, or it compromises stability, it may be safer to travel in reverse. Take extra care and be vigilant when it has not been possible to exclude people from the work area. Take a good look around the vehicle and sound the horn before moving off.
- Use a banksman to guide you when reversing if necessary
- A banksman should stand in a safe place where the driver can see them
- Telescopic handlers can have blind spots created by the boom so check for pedestrians before manoeuvring
- Ensure mirrors are fitted and properly adjusted. Repair mirrors if broken
- Mirrors and cab windows should be kept clean.
- Windscreen wipers should be fitted and working
A wide range of attachments are available for agricultural work e.g pallet or muck forks, buckets, bale spikes, block cutters and grabs. Key points to remember are:
- Fitting an attachment may alter the characteristics of the machine and should be considered when determining revised lifting capacities (a process known as de-rating).
- Always select attachments compatible with the telehandler and suitable for the task to be performed.
- Attachments need to be regularly inspected and properly maintained.
- Operators will require training for the attachments they use.
- Always operate isolation switches, hydraulic valves, or other measures provided on the machine to secure and/or isolate attachments safely.
Using a telehandler boom to drive in fence posts is hazardous as the person holding the post or standing nearby may be at risk of serious injury. Risks include:
- being struck or run over by the telehandler.
- being struck by the boom, or the attachment mounted on it e.g. a grain bucket, if either the machine, boom or attachment move unexpectedly,
- being crushed or trapped by the attachment, if it becomes detached from the machine.
The action of pushing down on the fence post will tend to lift the attachment out of the mechanism securing it to the boom. Anyone in the vicinity is at risk of being struck or crushed by the attachment, should this occur.
Never use a telehander boom, or an attachment such as a grain bucket mounted on the boom, as a tool for driving in fence posts. Always use equipment suitable for the job e.g. a tractor mounted post-driver.
Below are links to incidents involving telehandlers which resulted in media coverage:
- Rider operated lift trucks:Operator training and safe use. Approved Code of Practice L117
- Farmwise Your essential guide to health and safety in agriculture