Accessing Heights, Safely

With the huge impetus on infrastructure development, the access equipment industry is poised for an exponential growth. However, what the industry is looking forward is implementation of proper legislation while working at heights.

The access equipment market in India is evolving rapidly across user industries, driven by greater consciousness and emphasis on safety. There is a considerable growth potential for access equipment in Asian markets especially India and China. However, the lack of safety regulation for work at height slows down the development of the concept and the usage of less safe options like scaffolding etc. remain a major deterrent. No doubt there has been increase in awareness across sectors on the multifarious use of access equipment which not only helps working safely at height but alongside plays a major role in increasing productivity.

“India being one of the fastest growing economies today and already having moved in to the 6th position of large economies in the world, would certainly need to follow the best practices being followed in the developed countries. Such countries have strict legislations on safety for working at heights and strongly promulgate the use of access equipment for heights over 3m. We from the access industry in India are hopeful that the government would take heed of this and bring in legislations pertaining to working at heights. Once this is done, the Indian access equipment industry shall certainly have exponential growth both in end user and mainly in the rental segment, states Souma Ray, Director, Haulotte India. He adds, “The lack of legislations for working at heights has been one of the main reasons due to which the access equipment industry hasn’t been growing in India as it is expected to be.”

Speaking about the access equipment market trends Sanjay Khanna, Managing Director, Mtandt Group, had this to say. “India, as compared to western countries and even compared to a few Asian countries has been slow in adopting access equipment for working at height.  However, recently the scene has changed. I am sure we have now crossed the nascent stage and in many segments, for example, construction of factories and warehouses, the industry has matured, though saturation has not yet happened. Some segments such as commercial and residential construction segments are yet to realize the use and benefits of powered access in a big way, so here; you could say that the market is in a nascent stage.”

Khanna further adds, “Unlike the developed countries, in India, there is no strict enforcement of legislations for working at heights.  The government is expected to come up with such laws very soon.  Mtandt has been playing a proactive role of educating the industry and the users on work-at-height hazards and solutions available to combat such hazards.”

Highlighting the general trends in the sale of access equipment globally Ray points out, “The general trend of usage of access equipment across the world is 67% scissor lifts and balance 33% boom lifts. As the access industry matures the demand of scissor lifts especially the electrical scissors increases.”  Ray further focuses on the Indian sales trends in access equipment. According to him in India during the initial years the industry saw good demands of electrical scissors but that waned over the years as demand for boom lifts increased because of major requirements of various infra projects across the country. “However in 2018 we have been witnessing an exponential rise in demand of scissor lifts and even rental companies are procuring new scissor lifts.” He substantiates his point by the purchase made by  Rentease International LLP, one of India’s newest and fastest growing AWP rental companies. Rentease bought 82 nos. new machines from Haulotte, the bulk of it being electrical scissors.

Speaking about the rental segment Khanna says, “Rental market scenario of AWPs has been on the rise for a decade now, and growth in the coming years will also be high.  Increase in awareness on work at height safety, more MNCs and corporates implementing their global safety practices, and similar factors will fuel growth in this space. Telehandlers had been initially perceived to be mere material handling equipment for lifting smaller loads. However, their ability to reach out horizontally, their safety features, drivers/operators comfort and the ease of handling loads have made them more acceptable than before.”

Highlighting the major challenges the rental companies face especially in the rental market Rays opines, “The major challenge that all established rental companies have been plagued is the low rental rates and non consideration from the contractors hiring their equipment to give better rates for equipment that may be new, young in age and in good condition. This lack of consideration resulted in under cutting of rates and also coming in of many small fly by night rental operators offering at unviable rates very old and mostly past serviceable life machines bought at throwaway prices.” He further adds, “We as manufacturers are promulgating the awareness of safety and productivity to the end users so that they should prefer hiring machines in good condition albeit at slightly higher rates without doing any compromise to safety.”

Moving Ahead

The comparative figures Ray brings gives an insight into the huge potential for growth. According to him in 2017, the total number of access equipment imported into India (both new and used) was around 758 machines out of which 60% were used machines whereas in China the figure is over 6000 units. The industry is hopeful for a sustained growth in access equipment market as there is a huge growth potential owing to the scope of multitude of infrastructural and development projects, coupled with the logistics and retail sectors gathering pace. The country definitely requires a massive scale of infrastructure development in all sectors viz., power, road, port, aviation, railway, internal transport, etc. All such construction activities hold great potential for
access equipment.

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