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Highway star

Safety - A cone deployment device for use on busy roads will bring huge safety benets to maintenance crews. Jon Young meets its inventor.

Irish born David Lynch is an inventor, a self-driven entrepreneur who is passionate about his work and who doesn't mind taking huge financial risks.

This entrepreneurial spirit has led to an invention that could revolutionise safety for highway maintenance operatives.

Lynch has created a truck with special attachments that enable it to move, spread or realign cones, removing the need for workers to position them on live carriageways ahead of construction or maintenance work.

The trucks have two chutes which can be positioned on either side of the vehicle or on the rear. Workers stand in the back of the truck or at the rear, dropping the cones down the chute and onto the road. A variety of attachments then guide the cones into position on the carriageway.

With both chutes attached at the outer edge of the tailgate and the cone spreader attachment fixed to the rear tow bar, the trucks can cone off the centre lane of a motorway efficiently and safely.

Around 4,800 cones an hour can be placed by two workers.

The dropping system's design was partly inspired by time spent on the road when Lynch was in the haulage business.

Says Lynch: 'I used to go out in the car and I would see these guys reaching off the back of a truck to drop off cones on the inside lane the middle lane and the outside lane and as he's coming down he's reaching into the trafc. So we looked at how many were killed doing this and the gures were surprisingly high.

'I've seen lads throwing cones around, I've seen them in the road, I've seen them reaching out and I thought, how could you do that?' Like many inventions, Lynch's cone dispenser started life in a pretty basic form. 'I got myself a little wire coat hanger and started to make shapes out of it, ' he explains. 'I got a little round rod, the sort you buy for DIY, and I put the piece of wire into the rod so it acted like a wheel and messed about like that. And that's how it all really began.

'Where work on the hard shoulder or central reservation is required, a cone guide can be tted to either side of the vehicle and a chute moved to the side to feed the cones onto the carriageway.' Moving the cones from one lane to another, into the hard shoulder or onto the central reservation is achieved with a displacement attachment, which is hooked on to the front of the vehicle. It consists of a right-angled frame whose hypotenuse runs from the outer edge of the front of the truck and is used a bit like a snow plough to gently nudge cones into position as the truck moves forward.

This is particularly useful if a contractor needs to cone off two lanes of a dual carriageway after initially sectioning off one lane, as cones can be moved by the truck, rather than by workers.

The attachment can also move cones onto the hard shoulder for safer removal.

If anyone knows the importance of safety in industrial and engineering situations, it is Lynch. In 2000 he was involved in an accident at work that changed his life, and played a part in the creation of his coneplacing invention.

While working for a road haulage company he was struck from behind by a forklift truck.

The accident severely damaged the nervous system down his left side and he has had many operations since.

'The lad in the forklift just came haring down between two artics on his mobile phone and wiped the two of us clean of our feet. As the forklift hit me I was spun around. It cracked me in the back of the head and I was thrown on top of the young lad I was showing round the site.' 'I had an out-of-body experience. And as I was having this experience I started to hear this tap, tap, tap. When I came to I realised it was the pneumatics on the forks just ticking down, it was still right on top of us, the lad hadn't backed it up. He hadn't even realised he'd hit us.

'I jumped up and out and I was bleeding all over my head. The lad driving then jumped out and pulled this young lad out from under the forks. He never should have moved him, he should have left him for the paramedics, but he pulled him out.' The young man also injured in the accident was in a coma for 28 days.

Lynch was awarded £155,000 for his injuries, but his career in the haulage business was over.

Lynch's rst commercial venture as an inventor was the Gangans tube dispenser, which helps people with poor grip use everyday items such as tubes of toothpaste. Having sold more than 3,000 dispensers in Ireland, Lynch set his sights on his cone placement invention.

The product has taken him two years and £91,000 to develop, is patented in the UK and is already being used in Northern Ireland. It is being considered by many large maintenance rms throughout the UK highways sector.

Keen to protect the idea Lynch has also lodged patents in the USA and Canada.

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