Mobile Plant

Taking a safe, sensible approach to automatic quick hitches

Quick hitch couplers are fitted on many machines to make it easier to switch attachments. There are many varieties of quick hitch, including fully automatic versions that allow operators to change attachments from the cab, which is the safest option. Semi-automatic quick hitches rely on operators manually inserting a safety pin to secure the attachment.
?Quick hitches are vital to the construction industry, making the task of frequent bucket and attachment changes much faster and more efficient, but safety must always come first,? Withell said.
?Fully automatic quick hitches can be operated from the cab, with no need for the operator to manually insert a safety pin, so they are safer than semi-automatic, manual pin versions.? 
WorkCover NSW recently announced that the sale and supply of semi-automatic quick hitches will be phased out in New South Wales within months, and other states are likely to make similar new rules in the near future.
In 2012, two people died due to semi-automatic quick hitch related incidents. Verification activities by WorkCover NSW revealed that about 50 per cent of machines fitted with semi-automatic quick hitches were being used without the safety device engaged.
?WorkCover NSW has recognised this serious safety issue, and determined that semi-automatic quick hitches will no longer be allowed to be installed or supplied in the state from 30 April,? Withell said. ?Other types of hitch, including mechanical hitches and detach-only automatic hitches, are to be reviewed throughout the year.
?Other states and territories including Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT have already indicated support for the revised position in NSW. ?It?s reasonable for equipment owners to think the changes in NSW will probably be adopted nationally over time.?
JCB CEA?s fully automatic quick hitches are standard on all its new large excavators. The company can also arrange the retrofitting of compliant automatic quick hitches on other models.
?JCB recognised long ago the benefits of fully automatic quick hitches, and has gone a step further than many others,? Withell said. ?On the heavy line JS and JZ excavators, JCB has designed a number of key features to enhance worksite safety and operator integrity, including a two-action release requirement.
?To ensure the hitch isn?t released by mistake, the operator has to press two separate functions within five seconds of each other on two different touch pads to effect the release of the hitch.
?Another feature is the sensor integrated onto both the boom and dipper that allows the hitch to be released only when the dipper is in a safe working envelope.
?This ensures the hitch is positioned close to the machine, so the operator has optimum visibility throughout the attachment release procedure. 
?We?ve also integrated a red LED light that illuminates to let both the operator know it?s good to release and site workers know to take caution around the machine.?
Although Withell believes choosing a fully automatic quick hitch is the best option for a safe worksite, he said it was only part of the solution. 
?Site safety relies on vigilance and solid operator competencies, no matter what equipment you use,? he said. ?It?s important that the person fitting an attachment understands the attachment and the job it is intended for. ?Quick hitch maintenance is also important to ensure damage or debris is not inhibiting the locking mechanisms.?
Full details of the new rules can be found on the WorkCover NSW website: www.workcover.nsw.gov.au 
Source: JCB CEA

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