There’s a Tool for That
Discovering Safer, Faster and Easier Ways to Work Through Rental Equipment
Rental centers have long been the go-to resource for supplying equipment to contractors working on a wide range of jobs, from roadbuilding to commercial construction and demolition. As our economy and the number of infrastructure projects grow, so will the number of contractors bidding for and taking on more projects. Many are choosing rental as a way to establish their fleets. It’s no wonder; they get access to a wide variety of equipment. But beyond the convenience of a rental center’s fleet diversity, they also are a great no-risk way to discover how to improve jobsite efficiency and safety. Four tasks that can have big payoffs with the right equipment are groundwork, demolition, fueling equipment and work-at-height projects.
Extreme Compact Track Loaders
When it comes to light-duty work on a jobsite typically reserved for manual labor, such as small-scale dirt moving, the smallest size class of compact track loaders are an efficient – and less fatiguing – alternative. The industry’s largest CTLs, on the other hand, can serve as an economical and versatile alternative to even larger equipment.
The smallest sit-on CTL on the market is only 4 feet wide and comes from ASV Holdings Inc., a longtime compact track and skid-steer loader manufacturer. The 37.5-horsepower RT-40 Posi-Track loader is a great option for work in tight spaces. This maneuverability allows small CTLs to do some jobs more effectively than larger models. One example is using a power box rake attachment to prepare soil in a backyard for seeding. A small machine can complete the work much faster in the tight space. And because the smallest CTLs offer the lowest ground pressure, there is less risk of turf damage. When compared to similarly-sized walk-behind and stand-on loaders, CTLs offer more power and speed, and therefore more productivity. In addition, the small cab-equipped CTLs are much safer and more comfortable.
On the other end of the spectrum, the largest of CTLs allow contractors to potentially replace bigger equipment with a machine that costs less, is easier to transport and more versatile. CTLs with 120-horsepower engines, such as ASV’s RT-120 Posi-Track Loader, paired with a planer attachment can easily replace a larger milling machine on small- to mid-size roadbuilding projects. They offer productivity, ease of transport and a plethora of other valuable applications on the jobsite.
In applications that require land clearing and are typically reserved for costly, large 200- to 300-horsepower brush-cutting and mulching machines, a 120-horsepower CTL with a mulching head offers ample power for the job at a fraction of the cost. Not only is the CTL half the size and half the cost of the larger equipment, but it’s also faster and easier to transport. In addition, some models feature innovative hydraulic and cooling systems for high performance while equipped with demanding forestry attachments. This means no loss of travel speed while operating at 100 percent load, 100 percent of the time in ambient temperatures as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit. CTLs can even be optimized for forestry work with extra guarding in key areas, a reinforced cab, hydraulic quick attach, 20-inch-wide tracks and an auto-reversing cooling fan to blow mulch debris out of the engine compartment screens.
Remote-Controlled Demolition Robots
Common demolition jobsite hazards – such as fall risks, falling debris and traffic hazards – are the norm, and contractors work to mitigate those risks during the planning process. Some contractors are finding, however, that the safest, fastest and most cost-effective option is to remove the worker from the hazardous area altogether.
Remote-controlled demolition machines, such as those offered by Brokk, are growing in popularity for this reason. Once considered a niche product, contractors are finding more and more ways to use robotic machines to improve productivity, reduce labor needs in an industry suffering from a skilled worker shortage, and – most importantly – remove employees from dangerous applications or scenarios. These reasons make renting or buying the equipment well worth the investment.
Operators use a belt-mounted remote-control box to operate the machine – typically from 10 to 20 feet away – a safe distance from the dangers of falling debris or fall risks near ledges. Demolition contractors often use the machines to replace handheld breakers, allowing improved productivity and eliminating repetitive strain injuries from pneumatic tools. Some key applications include bridge deck renovations, where the machines quickly break through the concrete but are precise enough to not damage the rebar; ceiling demolition, where the machine operator can stand away from the risk of falling debris; and any other concrete-removal tasks such as silo demolitions or concrete removal in confined spaces. Depending on the model, the machines often achieve productivity equal to three or more laborers with handheld tools.
They are also a safe alternative to similarly-sized mini excavators. Not only do the demolition robots provide more power, they get the operator out of the cab and away from precarious areas. Some contractors who use remote-controlled equipment instead of mini excavators have stories of projects where the machines were invaluable to crew safety, particularly in scenarios where the integrity of the surrounding structure was questionable. This involved a demolition robot falling hundreds of feet, hanging upside down from a bridge deck, or having the floor collapse beneath. Because operators weren’t in a cab, they were shaken, but unharmed.
The 500- to 11,300-pound machines range in footprint from just 5.5 to 62.5 square feet so some can fit through doorways, into elevators and can even climb stairs, which makes them incredibly versatile. Each is equipped with a three-part arm system that works with more than a dozen attachments, including breakers, concrete crushers, rock drills, drum cutters, grapples and saws. The arms extend 8 to 31.5 feet horizontally and 10 to 33 feet vertically, depending on the model. Most are electric-powered, eliminating fumes in tight areas, but diesel options are also available to allow the machine to move freely without a power cord.
Hydrodemolition robots, such as those from Aquajet Systems, a Brokk company, are another emerging technology that improves safety and productivity in ways similar to remote-controlled demolition machines. The robots can be programmed to direct a jet of water up to 40,000 psi through a ceramic nozzle at concrete. This quickly removes concrete while leaving any underlying rebar clean and unharmed, which is important in applications where the concrete is being replaced, such as on bridge decks and piers. The water-based method also has the advantage of minimizing the risk of silica dust exposure along with being safer and less labor-intensive than hand lances.
Hydrodemolition robots range from about 5 feet wide and 7 feet long to 7 feet wide and 9 feet long. Some machines are equipped with a mast system, allowing overhead or vertical work at 10- to 23-foot operating heights, depending on the model.
Contractors can rent remote-controlled demolition and hydrodemolition robots through some specialty rental centers in the U.S.
Low-Level Scissor Lifts
Opportunities to do work faster, easier and safer also exist on interior work, particularly during high-reach tasks. It’s long been accepted that a 19-foot lift is the go-to tool for work-at-height tasks, such as drywall, plumbing and electrical installations. Many operators have accepted the equipment’s shortcomings, including difficult maneuvering around corners and in smaller rooms, low platform capacities, floor damage risks and poor ergonomics. A great alternative that’s designed to solve these issues and enhance efficiency, are low-level scissor lifts. These types of lifts allow operators to work at 14 to 20 feet, prime range for more than 70 percent of projects. But they do more than just check the “height needed” box; they can have a huge impact on productivity and safety.
Many low-level scissor lifts offer as much as 250 pounds more platform capacity than a 19-footer, which means installers can load the lift with more materials. While low-level lifts hold more weight, they are significantly lighter than 19-footers. Nineteen-foot models weigh about 2,800 pounds on average, which equates to higher wheel loads that can damage finished floors and prolong the time before they can be used on green concrete. Self-propelled low-level lifts, on the other hand, weigh as little as 1,273 pounds and feature dual front wheels that distribute the weight, resulting in low wheel loads. Contractors can get onto fresh concrete sooner and work on finished floors, such as tile, raised floor panels and laminate, with minimal risk of damage.
When it comes to safety, entry height has a huge impact on preventing injuries from trips and sprains. For HJ Martin, the contractor installing the framing and drywall for the Duke LifePoint Hospital in Marquette, Michigan, this was one reason they chose to use more than 30 Hy-Brid low-level scissor lifts on the project.
A large portion of HJ Martin’s work is ongoing in the facility’s 8-by-8-foot and 10-by-10-foot hospital rooms, which all have 9-foot ceilings. These areas need floor-to-ceiling framing and drywall and 19-foot lifts are simply too large.
On many jobsites, this is the point where extension ladders or stepladders come into play. But, like many contractors who are starting to take a strong stance on preventing injuries from falls, HJ Martin employs a ladders-last mentality. That is, if there is a safer way to get work-at-height jobs done, then that approach must be used first, and only as a last resort should ladders be considered.
Ladders appear to be a straightforward tool, but there is quite a bit to know in terms of setup and usage. OSHA recommends users place extension ladders at a 75-degree angle, set it one-quarter of the working height away from a wall, and ensure the top of a ladder extends 3 feet higher than the elevated surface. Users must also choose ladders that are the appropriate Duty Rating for the task, which ensures it can hold the user’s weight and the weight of the load. And while working on or climbing up and down a ladder, the “three point rule” should always be enforced. This means users must maintain three points of contact at all times to minimize the risk of slipping and falling. But when trying to maneuver up a ladder with drywall, for instance, maintaining three points of contact is impossible.
The lifts gave HJ Martin the best of both worlds: a lift that rivals the working height and footprint of a stepladder yet has more capacity than a 19-foot model. Plus, it has better ergonomics than both.
The smallest sit-on and largest CTLs, demolition robots and low-level scissor lifts are just a few examples of machines contractors may not have known existed, but can have a huge impact on safety and efficiency on the jobsite. The most frequently overlooked equipment, however, isn’t operated by anyone and doesn’t even move around the jobsite often. While it doesn’t sound like they do much, fuel tanks do everything.
Portable Fuel Tanks
Fuel is possibly the most often overlooked opportunity to improve jobsite productivity. Regardless of the type of job, if there’s diesel equipment on site, it will need to stay fueled. For many contractors, refueling equipment means closely monitoring fuel usage to avoid running out and taking machines out of service while waiting for a fuel truck to show up. Renting onsite fuel storage eliminates waiting, downtime and inefficiency. These portable tanks range in size from less than 150 gallons to as much as 5,000 gallons, which makes them ideal for nearly any size jobsite.
Generally, if a contractor has at least two diesel-fueled machines at a job for two weeks or longer, renting a portable fuel tank is a smart option to minimize downtime and expenses. In fact, downtime can be nearly eliminated thanks to fuel management systems that alert contractors when levels are getting low. This means a call to the fuel supplier can be made well before any equipment runs dry.
Portable fuel tanks are also convenient options for supplying fuel to critical ancillary equipment, such as generators and light towers, drastically extending run times. Portable cube-shaped tanks, such as those from Western Global, allow fueling of up to three pieces of equipment at once, all while the fueling equipment and ports remain safely locked in a secure cabinet.
Trailer-mounted tanks are available for easy towing, and cube tanks approved for full-fuel transport offer great versatility and mobility as they can be easily loaded and secured on a truck or trailer. Full-fuel transport also enables tanks to arrive on site full and ready to use, eliminating the need for an initial fuel delivery. Many cubes tanks also feature crane-lifting hooks and forklift pockets for moving around the jobsite without tying up a vital machine.
Some manufacturers equip portable fuel tanks with features that help users keep pace with Tier 4 regulations and diesel exhaust restrictions. Western Global, for instance, offers models with on-board diesel exhaust fluid storage for easy compliance. Blanket heaters and DEF transfer pump kits are also typically available to simplify dispensing.
Whether work is at a hospital, in a backyard, on a bridge deck or at a construction site, there could be opportunities to work safer, faster and easier waiting to be discovered. Knowing each worksite inside and out as well as rental equipment options is a great start to ensuring productivity doesn’t get left on the table.