13 October 1995

Proficiency test can help avoid loads of trouble

In this weeks special we look at wheeled and skid-type loaders and discover how torque converters work. But first we see how a proficiency test for a telescopic loader is conducted

YOU dont have to take a proficiency test to operate a telescopic loader, but if an accident should occur… Such was the reasoning behind John Lambkins decision to enrol for a course which would comply with the code of working practice recommended by the Health and Safety Executive.

Farms manager at farmers weeklys Easton Lodge farm near Stamford, Lincs, Mr Lambkin believes it important that all farm staff, himself included, should be properly trained for machinery they are likely to handle.

And so earlier this year Mr Lambkin and the farms pig manager, Jasper Renold, began the first of a two-part course on the safe handling of a telescopic loader, a JCB Loadall 525B. Leading the course was Keith Cook of Northants-based, Keith Cook Training Services.

Theory day involved time in the office covering such aspects as the limitations of the machine in terms of load capacity, legal requirements and safe practices, all culminating in a test comprising 40 multiple choice questions.

But it was "practical day" which proved the more taxing with Mr Cook relentless in his demands for precision, safety and attention.

A check of the machines condition, oil levels, hydraulic pipe wear, tyres and lifting gear, began the day with the course leader adamant that if any faults were found, the day would be cancelled.

All well in the machinery department, it was time for Mr Cook to climb aboard and explain the starting-up procedure. "Bit alarmed to find the key in the ignition," was the first comment duly noted by the two students, who freely admitted they had never known it to be anywhere else.

"We turn the key on and check all the warning lights are working, including the safe load indicator, before starting the engine. And then, with the engine running, we lift the boom to its highest point (having checked first for overhead obstructions) and hold the lever open to check the pressure relief valves are working properly and there are no oil leaks."

The machines other rams were also tested before Mr Cook lowered the boom into its transport position, about 1ft above the ground with the tips of the pallet forks visible from the driving position. It was time to move. A good look round, into gear, shuttle lever forwards, handbrake off, throttle opened and away it went. But to where? A stack of pallets in one corner of the yard provided the answer, and challenging entertainment for the next two hours as Mr Cook repeatedly insisted on correct procedures.

"Old habits die hard," commented Mr Lambkin, who was clearly having trouble coming to terms with the "handbrake on" instruction between every manoeuvre, the key out each time the engine was stopped and the insistence that he dismounted the machine backwards.

Handling the pallets in a competent and accurate manner proved possible after some practice, as did manoeuvring the loader around a fiendishly-tight obstacle course, but when the two operations were combined the operators skill was tested to the limit.

"A bit tough that one," said Mr Lambkin, who took time out to check the guttering of a nearby shed was still intact.

The course continued. The art of stacking pallets close to other pallets, stacking pallets on a trailer and stacking pallets over a wall using the boom extension.

And then it was off with the pallets forks and on with the bucket and more instruction on weight loadings, correct transport position and operating techniques.

The test followed, a rigorous, thorough exercise in which both students were put through their paces, demonstrating that they could handle a telescopic loader safely and with competence.

The result? Both passed. &#42