January 2020, Vol. 247, No. 1

Tech Notes

Productivity & Safety: A Natural Pairing in Pipe Handling

Most construction accidents happen during pipe handling, when workers are loading and unloading large, heavy pipe or when additional construction equipment is brought in to move big and unwieldy pipe with workers in close proximity. 

The new system that allows for better pipe handling on the job site.

McElroy’s pipe-handling systems can simplify the process and create a safer working environment, while increasing productivity 150% by turning out long runs of fused pipe each day.

A single 54-inch DR 25 high-density polyethylene pipe stick weighs about three tons. Safety concerns arise when excavators or cranes are used to lift the pipe. Heavy pipe dangling overhead can be a dangerous proposition especially when a single lifting strap is used with multiple workers below.

The PolyHorse and MegaMc PolyHorse pipe-handling systems consist of a series of adjustable racks that hold a day’s worth of pipe. When they’re used on the job, the pipe only has to be handled by heavy machinery once as it is being unloaded from the delivery truck.

They work well on job sites where pipe is staged in one area, fused and pulled into place. Instead of dedicating heavy machinery to lift, align, load and hold a stick of pipe to be fused, these systems do all the work.

A single operator can dispense the pipe onto the powered pipe stands, maneuver the pipe into alignment and insert pipe into the fusion machine. Pipe racks purposefully designed with an adjustable incline allows gravity to feed the pipes to the dispenser. Each powered pipe stand allows for up to 24 inches of lateral adjustment and 34 inches of vertical adjustment. 

The operator controls the powered pipe stands to move and align the pipe with the fusion machine. Powered rubber tracks feed the aligned stick of pipe into the fusion machine efficiently, safely and with less risk of damage to the equipment. 

The MegaMcPipe Stands are used to hold fused pipe lengths level with the fusion machine which helps maintain the alignment for ongoing fusion processes. Low profile-rollers pull long lengths of fused pipe long distances and minimize pipe drag. These kinds of productivity tools allow the fusion to be staged in one area and the pipe stays cleaner and off the ground with less potential for damage.

Solo Operator

McElroy fusion machines are designed around the goal of having one fusion operator. The controls are laid out in a logical fashion so that a single operator has a clean line of sight and can perform every step of the fusion process. By having one operator, all operations are done from a central point and on one side of the machine. This eliminates the possibility of having workers on the back side of the machine where visibility is limited by the pipe, heater and facer. 

Minimizing the clutter of moving equipment, pipe and people in close proximity is always a safety improvement. It helps reduce common accidents like being struck by an object or caught between objects. Keeping it clean and simple means there is less opportunity for error and miscommunication.

Hydraulic Clamping

One of the most useful features on McElroy’s fusion machines is hydraulic clamping. It helps streamline the fusion process and reduces operator fatigue. Hydraulic power assists in all fusion functions, including the operation of the jaws, pipe lifts, heater and facer. Hydraulic pipe lifts assist with the loading, unloading and final positioning of the pipe. The angle of the jaws is designed around cradling and securing the pipe against unexpected sideways motion.

The facer and the heater are part of the machine and do not require additional equipment to lift it out of the machine. This eliminates overhead lifting of sharp or hot equipment. Manual cranking of the jaws requires greater physical effort and creates the potential for falls when hoisting and installing the upper jaws and clamping them in place. But hydraulic clamping allows the operator to simply flip some valves.

Hydraulic clamping comes standard on many tracked fusion machines and can be retrofitted to manual machines. Retrofit kits include a manifold block that is added to the carriage and controls the two fixed-jaw cylinders and two movable jaw cylinders independently. 

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