SteelFab 2012, the ninth edition of the premier regional show for steel fabrication, metal-working and metal manufacturing industry that is scheduled to be held from January 9 to 12 at Expo Centre Sharjah, will have a new special focus – material handling in steel fabrication.

About 3.9 million employees are disabled at work in any given year and one work-related injury occurs every eight seconds, according to Ergoworks Consulting, injury prevention and ergonomic specialists.

“The right material handling equipment with the correct load ratio ensures reduction in injuries and prevent fatal accidents,” said Mr Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, Director-General of Expo Centre Sharjah, organisers of the SteelFab show.

“There is a growing awareness of health, safety and environment (HSE) issues and worker safety is gaining prominence in the Middle East industry. Fatal accidents at the workplace have serious implications for owners with insurance needs, adjudication of blame and loss of key employees. Given the sub-contracting and labour hire practices in the Middle East, ensuring the right kind of working machinery and equipment is paramount to worker safety,” he added.

“Owners also factor in the cost-savings with increased automation which has led to an increase in automation in material handling in the steel industry,” he said.

The Middle East region has largely been labour intensive; however, developments in the past few years indicate a gradual shift to automation in process, with material handling being at the forefront of this change.

The special focus on material handling at SteelFab 2012 aims to provide the tools to accelerate this change and will feature a full range of equipment from overhead cranes, conveyor systems, rotators, positioners, column & boom, robots, magnetic lifting and vacuum lifting etc.

“Steel workshops handle heavy steel plates and blocks with slings, chains or mechanical grabs. Lifting magnets provide a safer and surer lifting,” said Mr. Sudesh Rodrigues, Director of Stadlers Corp, distributors of Tecnomagnete, permanent magnet lifting equipment.

“Slings often make it difficult to release the load as it may come to rest on the slings. In addition, the attaching and detaching of slings or chains frequently results in hand and finger injuries. Permanent lifting magnets that can be simply activated and de-activated with a lever are providing a safe, sure and convenient alternative in thousands of steel lifting applications,” he noted.

Unnecessary accidents can be avoided using simple material handling solutions, according to Mr. R.N. Mathew of Tools Middle East. “It is very appreciable to note that there has been a shifting trend in the market, whereby most operators have started to insist on reliable safety & quality orientated products” said Mr. Mathew. “When it comes to material handling & lifting equipments, our focus has always been to provide "engineered products" with high safety aspects rather than supplying "easily fabricated arrangements". We take pride in representing THERN Inc. (USA)& REID Lifting (UK) who are two of the best manufacturers of "Thoroughly Engineered, Tested & Certified" Davit Cranes, Winches, Portable Gantries & other customised lifting equipments for hoisting of both material as well as personnel. Distributor of Thern Material Handling solutions” he said.

“SteelFab already features a wide range of material handling equipment from robots, welding positioners, rotators & tables to overhead cranes, slings and conveyors” said Mr. Saif Al Midfa. The special focus on material handling will augment participation from this sector to join exhibitors such as ABB Robotics, Abus Crane, Blickle, Ace Crane, Belgium Welding, Corimpex, Demmeler, Fanuc Robotics, Fast Rotator, Finat-CB Lifting, Kyoto, Liftek, Promat Automation, Seigmund, Seklizi Crane, Stierli-Bierger, Tecno-Magnete, Thern, Toyo Lift, Umit Castings, Walker Magnetics amongst others.

“We are pleased to note that already exhibitors in this sector like Motoman Robotics and Sarda Magnets are joining the next edition” he concluded.

SteelFab 2011, held in January, exhibited more than 600 brands and recorded a 20 per cent increase in the number of visitors compared to last year. The seventh edition of SteelFab featured 206 direct exhibitors, against 183 last year, registering an increase of nearly 13 per cent.

Leading industry experts who exhibited at SteelFab voiced their optimism for the future of the industry. With the global steel market picking up, industry giants said they are looking forward to a steady increase in demand for steel and steel related products.

SteelFab 2011 was held at a total exhibition area of 16,000 square meters, featuring the Middle East's largest display of machinery, machine tools, welding equipment, supplies, consumables and ancillary equipment used in the pre and post-treatment of steel.

Apart from attracting leading manufacturers in the industry from all over the world, it boasted a visitor footprint covering the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Indian Sub-continent.