We talk to Engineering Manager Tony McKeown on Quick Coupler Safety and ISO13031 Standards

Hi Tony, please tell us about who you are?

I joined Geith in 1980 and worked on attachments development for the Construction and Agri sectors for over 38 years. Currently I hold the position of Engineering Manager in a group of committed and dedicated engineers who have over 100 years combined experience in developing attachments for the Construction Industry.

 

How familiar are you with the ISO 13031 standard?

When the requirement for a Quick Coupler Standard was recognised and initiated by the HSE, the approach adopted by the Standards Authority was to work in conjunction with a broad spectrum of Industry representatives with the view to developing the best and most appropriate standard possible. Participation from various bodies such as Regional Standards bodies, Construction Industry representative organisations, National Health and Safety Bodies, Construction equipment and Quick Coupler manufacturers, was sought to participate at the Developing Committee level in developing the standard.

Geith was one of the nationally selected manufacturers to contribute at committee level. So since 2009 I was involved as a member of the Standards Development committee  working on the TC-127 (ISO13031).

 

Why was this new standard developed?

When we make a purchase of any kind of product, whether from a business perspective or in our private capacity as individuals, as customers we have the right and the expectation that we have purchased a safe working product free from risk to our health and/or damage to our property. This is a simple goal of all standards, and the Quick Coupler Standard is no exception to this principle.

In the past, there have been many serious injuries and even fatalities in the industry due to attachments becoming detached from certain types of Quick Coupler – Predominantly Excavator type couplers but also with Telehandler and loader couplers. There are such a variety of designs and models available to the industry coupled with varying work practices that make the situation impossible or at best extremely difficult to control and improve the safety record on job sites. When you get the opportunity to discuss these incidents with colleagues around the world you quickly find that all markets where couplers are used are experiencing the same issues. So, the HSE in UK decided to take action with the view to eliminating the causes of these accidents and improving the Health and Safety of workers in the Construction industry and the general public alike.

They firstly reached an agreement in 2009 with all coupler manufacturers in the UK to cease supply of the semi-automatic coupler into the UK market. Following from that they initiated the development of a new specific ISO standard for Quick Couplers, which resulted in the publication of ISO13031 Earth Moving Machinery – Quick Couplers – Safety.

 

So, ISO 13031 Quick Coupler Standard – Can you demystify it and explain in simple words what it is?

Sure. – Standards are a measure of quality attainment to defined and established performance criteria. For a product to be in compliance with a particular ISO Standard they must meet all the requirements laid out in the standard.

Standards are generally the result of a consultation process between concerned and interested parties under the direction of the National Authorities responsible for Standards development who recognise a need to safeguard individuals and property from harm and damage and/or to define a minimum acceptable level of quality for a product.

ISO is the acronym for the “International Standards Organisation” and therefore the standards produced by it are Internationally accepted and implemented and are a best practice guide for those products covered by that standard. In cases of dispute resolution, compliance to the standards can be used to demonstrate the minimum level of quality the product adheres to. They become law in each country or region only when they are adopted and Harmonised in each of those countries or regions. This process can generally take some time within each region following the publication of the ISO standard.

In relation to the current published ISO 13031 Standard for Quick Couplers and without quoting the complete text of the standard itself, the basic requirements outlined in the standard are related to the requirement for the coupler to have a backup lock feature that prevents disengagement of the attachment in the event of loss or reduction of primary engagement forces (e.g. due to pressure loss or reduction). Furthermore, the locking system needs to be always in place throughout the engagement status (ruling out gravity operated systems that repeatedly alternate between locked and unlocked state throughout the working cycle and transportation stages of the excavator).

Further detailing of component definitions, purpose and minimum performance requirements are contained in the standard appropriate to the type of couplers being considered. The Standard covers manually operated couplers, powered couplers and mixed couplers, for Excavators, Loaders and Telehandlers and extends its area of specification to the control system for the operation of the quick coupler.

In fact Geith pioneered the first front pin lock system over 14 years ago that prevents attachment release in the event of a missed pick up connection of the attachment (which was one of the main causes of accidents over the years on other coupler types).

Are Geith couplers compliant ?

– Yes indeed, Geith Couplers are compliant with the current published Industry Directives and Standards (EN474-1) and ISO13031 Quick Coupler Standard.

 

What is Geith doing to keep up with the norm?

– We don’t want to simply `keep up’ but also lead the Industry in safety and compliancy requirements. We want to enhance our products to the greatest benefit of our customers. But taking this approach must bring real added value to the customer while maintaining value for money and minimise running costs. There is a current trend out there where all kinds of bells and whistles are being pushed at customers as must have additions, under the guise of major safety enhancements and product improvements. In reality, they offer little added value while complicating systems, increasing user cost and increasing maintenance costs. Geith will continue to lead the development of real value solutions for our customers’ needs into the future. We see no future in being a me too copycat player in the Construction Attachments Sector.

 

What else have you developed?

To enhance the Quick Coupler offering and continue to add value, we have also launched a Quick Coupler control system that is a major improvement over previous control systems. A more modern attractive design, increased durability, build quality, reduced size, additional safety feature for difficult to curl type of attachments or in tight or difficult work space situations. This really enhances the user experience by simplifying his operational process in certain situations. All with an improved wiring harness and presentation kit. (And it is compliant with current standards for Quick Coupler operation).

We also continuously have several product development projects running at any given time that will bring true benefits to our customers.

 

When was the ISO 13031 Standard published?

From its beginning in 2009 it was finally published in May 2016.

 

Will there be a “grace period” for compliancy for manufacturers from the day it is launched?

On publication of the Standard it has a status of best practice guideline until ratified/Harmonised in individual member states. This can take some time to take place so there is already an inbuilt period before compliance becomes mandatory. The reality is however that market concerns and forces have already acted to drive the implementation of the improved generation couplers into the markets and in most cases the manufacturers and users are ahead of the game in this regard, at least in Europe. In the lesser developed regions they are slower to react and adopt, but it will happen over the next twelve to twenty four months.

 

Why is this norm important to you?

The standard strengthens the relationship between Geith and our customers. Customers know they can continue to depend and rely on Geith to look to their interests and success. Working to a Standard tends to remove sub-standard producers from the market thereby strengthening the relationships with our customers. It helps improve the user experience of our products as users can have confidence that they have invested in the best product they can buy.

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