St-Gobain takes a load off customers minds

Published:  27 August, 2009


ILKESTON: Ductile Iron technology leader Saint-Gobain PAM UK in association with its logistics partner Wincanton and Gundel Transport have come up with a novel solution to a common problem on construction sites – the safe unloading of cylindrical pipes from flat-bedded vehicles.

The development comes on the back of increased concerns over health and safety in the construction industry as a whole. 


In line with its own ongoing commitment to health and safety, Saint-Gobain PAM UK had originally been approached by one of its major water industry customers to discuss how the on-site pipe unloading process could be improved.

One of the major issues was that there was no fixed configuration when loading pipes onto lorries, with ‘bridging' - pipes with each end resting on a different stack of pipes underneath - commonly used. This lack of consistency created potential problems for those at ground level with the responsibility for unloading the pipes who could not always see all the pipes on the vehicle. As a result Saint-Gobain developed a new lorry loading configuration which would be guaranteed to be used for each pipe diameter and advised to the customer in advance.

The second issue was the unloading process itself. On-site loading at Saint-Gobain's stockground at Ilkeston in Derbyshire is undertaken by specially designed forklift trucks, but of course these are not typically available on-site. The usual option for customers is to hire a crane at around £1,000 per day. This can rise further if unloading has to be delayed for any reason, for example due to adverse weather.

Health and safety concerns are further exacerbated here as unloading by crane requires individuals to access the trailer bed to fit pipe hooks or slings to the lengths of pipe. At this point they are exposed to both potential ‘pipe roll' and the possibility of being hit by a heavy pipe swinging from a crane, which can cause serious injury, or worse.

Another option is unloading by forklift truck but as the pipe's centre of gravity is not at the mid-point due to the pipe design, incorporating a heavier socket end and a lighter spigot end, the potential for unbalanced lifting is ever present.

Saint-Gobain's aim therefore was to develop a solution which did not require on-site staff to be involved in the unloading process and also did not require personnel access to the trailer bed during unloading.

The result, developed by Kevin Gundel of Mansfield-based Gundel Transport, a major logistics supplier to Saint-Gobain PAM UK, is an unloading boom, fitted to the centre of the trailer bed, which can be operated remotely from ground level by the driver and, through use of a variety of fittings, can unload single pipes, pipe bundles and pallets.

On arrival at the site, the driver sets an exclusion zone, straps the control pad to his waist and unloads the pipes. For individual pipes, the boom incorporates a mechanism which locks into the end of the pipes. The reach of the boom – up to 13 metres – allows it to unload from other vehicles as well - a major bonus if a large delivery of pipes has taken place.

Graham Thomas, Stockground Manager at Saint-Gobain PAM UK, explained: "We were keen to ensure that we were doing all we could to optimise health and safety in the pipe unloading process.

"Developing a standard loading configuration so that customers know in advance what to expect is making life far easier when pipes arrive on-site, while the unloading boom is a simple design with one-man operation which eliminates the need to work at height.

"It is highly flexible too - the lifting attachment can be easily changed without any lifting, meaning single pipes, bundles and pallets can be quickly and easily removed and placed safely where required on-site.

"Already we are seeing increased demand for the unloading boom from our customers who are attracted by its cost-effectiveness compared to cranes and the fact that their own staff need no longer get involved in the unloading process."

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