Larger quantities of large building materials such as framing, tiles or bricks will be delivered on the back of a truck, but how do you get it from the truck to your building site? Sometimes it’s not practical to drive the truck onto the site due to space constraints or the gradient of the site. In these cases, your options are to manhandle the materials to where they are needed – something that is time-consuming and increases risk of injury – or to use equipment designed to move heavy loads.
The two most frequently used options are a truck loader crane and a truck-mounted forklift. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but both must have the correct safety protocols in place on your site to avoid damaging your products, or causing injury or death to other people working on your project.
How to receive deliveries of building products safely
Ideally, everyone should be wearing some form of hi-vis vest or shirt and the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This might include steel-capped boots, a hard hat, safety goggles, gloves and ear protection, depending on what type of load you are receiving. Anyone working on the site should be made aware of the variation to normal working conditions by using a toolbox meeting. If you have a site supervisor or foreman, this person can be responsible for ensuring that other trades know what is happening. Other workers on-site could be wearing ear protection and will be focused on their job – they won’t be looking around for a pallet of heavy bricks coming past on a forklift.
Traffic management may be required. In most scenarios this will simply include coning off the truck and its working radius (i.e. the area around the truck that will be used for lifting and where attachments such as a crane boom might move). If the truck will block a major road, a traffic management company with traffic controllers may need to be used. You must have prepared a safe place to receive the goods. For example, the delivery should not be stacked on a slope or anywhere that it will block other activities or otherwise cause a safety hazard. If you have live electrical wires and you need to move products within the minimum tolerance allowed for safety by the electrical authorities, you might need to have the power temporarily disabled.
What equipment can be used?
A truck-mounted forklift is a common piece of equipment used to unload pallets of goods from a flat-bed truck. The forklift is carried hanging off the back of the truck and it can self-load and unload, making it versatile in many environments. The forklift truck itself has three wheels that are designed for moderately rough ground (although they are not a true off-road forklift). More expensive models have wheels that can rotate enough for the forklift to ‘crab’ away from the truck, making them more efficient as unloading longer pipes. To drive a forklift you need a forklift licence. This ensures that you have been trained in the safe operation of a forklift. Forklifts are inherently unstable machines and there are thousands of injuries and many deaths every year due to forklifts tipping over or dropping their loads on other people.
For safe forklift delivery, the terrain must be relatively level as large dips and potholes can push the centre of gravity of a forklift to the point where it will tip over. This applies even when the forklift is carrying light loads because the counterweight on the forklift is heavy and a forklift is actually more stable when carrying a moderate amount of weight. The advantage of a truck-mounted forklift is that you can drive quite a distance from the truck and it handles palletised freight very well. It can usually lift to several metres and the forklift itself is relatively straightforward to operate. One of the disadvantages is that it is heavy! If you have soft ground or buried pipes that could be damaged, you might not know until it’s too late.
Truck-mounted crane or truck loader crane
A truck loader crane is a flat deck truck with a crane mounted behind the deck or just behind the cab. Don’t get confused with a crane truck or mobile crane – these are cranes that you can drive, but you can’t load goods onto them. A truck loader crane is still a truck, whether you use the crane part or not. The person operating the crane must be trained in its use. With modern cranes, a remote control will be used so that the driver can stay well clear of the lift zone while having good visibility of what is being lifted.
Truck loader cranes come in two variations: knuckle boom and fixed boom. Knuckle boom cranes have two articulations in the crane arm which gives much more flexibility when loading into tight spaces – the crane’s main advantage. A crane can also lift over the top of an obstacle such as a fence, or it can lift through open areas above ground floor level. A crane has a limited reach, though. The further the load is lifted from the crane, the less the crane can lift. It can also be badly affected by wind and cannot be used near overhead power lines. A crane will need enough space to extend its outriggers, and it must be on firm, level ground.
Depending on how big your renovation is, you might have a small skid steer loader, a pallet jack, hand trolley, wheelbarrows and other vehicles and equipment that can be used to move product from the truck to where it’s needed.
Safety is key
The most important thing is that you and everyone working on your site remains safe when products are delivered. Building materials are heavy and can be dangerous when handled incorrectly. Ensure everyone knows what’s going on. Never walk under an elevated load and always ensure that anyone using the equipment has the right credentials and training.