For years, forklift manufacturers have made marketing hay out of their vehicles' operator comfort and safety features, touting amenities like adjustable seats, vibration dampers, and ergonomically designed controls. Recently, though, one manufacturer took operator safety to a new, and perhaps unprecedented, level.
In late April, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI), the parent company of Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks, delivered the first of two heavy-duty forklifts with radiation-shielded cabins to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Sendai, Japan. The specially designed trucks will be used for the handling and disposal of contaminated rubble at the site. The second vehicle will be delivered in May.
Using its 15-ton heavy-duty forklift as a base, MHI developed and manufactured the radiation-shielded truck in less than a month, the company says. To protect the operator, the first forklift has a fully sealed cabin constructed with 100 mm-thick steel plates and 230 mm-thick lead glass welded on all sides. Both trucks are equipped with special filters that remove dust and other radiation-contaminated material. The air-conditioned cabin is pressurized by an air purifier to prevent external air from entering.
Each forklift will be supplied with a variety of attachments, including hinged forks, a bucket, a box clamp, and pivoting forks. Using these attachments, operators will transfer rubble into low-level radioactive-waste transfer containers.