Combilift planned a major focus on safety around forklift trucks for 2020 after it won the Industrial Vehicles Category of the BITA (British Industrial Truck Association) Design4Safety Awards in autumn 2019 for its multi-position tiller arm – a feature incorporated into all of its pedestrian models. 

Since the company was established, its philosophy has been to supply innovative handling solutions that reduce risk and prevent accidents. As well as enabling space saving and productive handling of loads, more secure and safer handling is cited by its customers as a major reason for choosing Combilift products.

The multi-position tiller arm on Combilift’s pedestrian models ensures a high level of safety for operators and personnel nearby

The rapid spread of Covid-19, the lockdown and social distancing requirements put safety even higher on the agenda – and not just for those who work on, with or near forklifts. Combilift drew on its engineering and software design expertise, and within just five weeks it developed the Combi-Ventilate, a splitter device which turns one ventilator into multiple ventilation stations.

This non-profit endeavour was aimed to help health services which were struggling due to the lack or shortage of ventilators. CEO and co-founder Martin McVicar says: “Health authorities were encouraging manufacturers to come up with solutions, and instead of developing ventilators we analysed what was really required, as we do in our usual business models. 

“The Combi-Ventilate can be attached to any brand of ventilator, costs a fraction of a standard ventilator and can be installed easily into an ICU unit environment.” 

Along with all businesses, Combilift also needed to ensure the safekeeping of its own workforce. A two-shift system replaced one-shift operation to halve the number of employees on site per shift. Other measures included segregating the plant into eight segments, clocking in via a contactless key fob, scanning of employees by thermal cameras, fitting copper coatings to handles of doors which cannot remain open, and closing the main canteen.

To mark National Forklift Safety Day in June, Combilift produced a new set of videos to show how its models contribute to enhanced safety in the warehouse and production facilities, and for loading and offloading materials. It also recognised the challenges for manufacturers to get back to normal output levels by creating extra space in production areas – where profit is made, while reducing the space for storage – which engenders costs. 

It launched a virtual version of its free warehouse layout service using in-house technology and video calling apps. On the basis of information supplied by site managers, Combilift engineers can provide simulated animations and 3D designs within 24 hours, which clearly show that by optimising both these areas, companies can comply with safety requirements while maintaining output.