Quietly in full control
Published: 01 October, 2008
There are many health and safety issues to overcome with industrial firefighting vehicles. The main challenge remains the plethora of different industrial applications, says Alfred Bidlingmaier from Iveco Magirus Brandschutz Technik in Germany. “A vehicle meant for a chemical or petrochemical plant, is totally different from one that is for an assembly or production factory.”
One common health and safety problem for firefighters the world over is the safe handling of equipment when loading and unloading. “Because most vehicles have big wheels and high frames, the handling of equipment poses serious health and safety challenges.”
According to Bidlingmaier, equipment is often stored loosely in a superstructure’s lockers and storage spaces without the use of any fixation devices.
“In a lot of firefighting vehicles, you open the doors and you see that none of the equipment is fixed. So when the fire tender is being driven very fast – or suddenly brakes – the equipment slides around the compartment. When the crew member opens the shutters the equipment then falls out, potentially causing major injury.”
In Magirus vehicles all equipment is separately stabilised with fixation systems, and all telescopic slides and drawers for larger equipment are manufactured in-house. When a brigade specifies a vehicle, Iveco designs the storage facilities and lockers according to the preferred brand and type of equipment of the brigade.
“The superstructure is completely bespoke, and in the design stages we send the drawings back to our clients for approval. After the custom designed superstructure has been approved, we start production,” explains Bidlingmaier.
Magirus vehicles are equipped with an in-house developed CAN-bus system that operates the pump and extinguishing media. It is connected to a display which gives a complete overview of the vehicle and its functions, such as the amount of water in the tank and how much class A and B foam is available.
The company launched it latest CAN-bus system a year ago, the Magirus HMI (Human Machine Interface) and according to Bidlingmaier this system is extremely easy to operate. He believes that ease of operation is an important element of a safe working vehicle as it provides the link between the operator and the machine.
Interestingly, Iveco made a conscious decision to design the display without a touch screen. “Many older firefighters have problems with computers and touch screens. This is why we designed the menu and navigation to be very simply controlled by push buttons – push buttons that are suitable for handling with gloves. For the main functions and auxiliary display information we have installed a logical, easily understandable combination of standard button controls. Additionally, the most important functions are directly selectable by means of control buttons. And we have an automatic selection of menu in the display when using buttons.”
The added benefit is that volunteer or part-time firefighters who don’t operate the vehicle every day have fewer problems getting used to the controls.
Iveco vehicles also include a cabability for a remote telematic diagnostic system that is in direct contact with the brigade workshop. When the maintenance supervisor comes in the morning, and opens up his laptop, he can see exactly whether a particular vehicle has had a problem the night before. Another option is to connect the telematic system in the vehicle directly to Iveco Magirus’ aftersales service, and Bidlingmaier says that usually most of the problems can be solved via the telephone.
Bidlingmaier thinks the most important health and safety feature on a Magirus vehicle is the low noise level of the Magirus pump system. It produces less noise because it is a serial two-stage pump system. “Basically, a pump with more stages has fewer revolutions per minute and the fewer revolutions are made, the less noise is produced. For example, a Magirus portable pump comprising of a two-stage pump system with 1,500 lpm, suction rate of 3 metres and a 10 bar output, would produce around 81 decibels, while many competitive pumps would produce around 100 decibels. Another benefit of the Magirus pumps is that there is no requirement for earplugs, as European regulations specify these should be worn over 90 decibels.”
On the other side of the health and safety spectrum Iveco Magirus has put some real thought into the design of its BA brackets. The Magirus system enables the firefighters to drive to the scene of the incident with their BA on. And because the BA brackets cannot be disconnected unless the parking brake is on, the firefighters are safe while driving.