The HSE highlight the dangers of badly maintained machinery causing injury to workers. Safety breaches cause injury and lead to compensation claims for employees injured by heavy plant.
HSE: Safe vehicle operation is essential
The appropriate use of vehicles in the workplace should play an important factor in health and safety planning for firms.
Businesses operating in sectors where members of staff will be asked to either drive or work in the vicinity of vehicles and heavy machinery expect their bosses to have health and safety as their top priority and this is something all firms need to be aware of.
However, this is not always the case, so here is some helpful advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) on how to stay safe when dealing with vehicles in the workplace.
How to manage vehicle operations effectively
Thorough and regular maintenance of vehicles, as well as the effective segregation of members of staff from areas where these machines are likely to be in operation are just some of the basic safety measures all firms should employ.
As such, the HSE advises all companies should ensure the vehicles chosen to operate in each area of the business are suitable for their respective purposes, while those driving such vehicles should have the necessary training and credentials to work safely.
Questions that need to be asked before allowing the use of vehicles at a site include: Does the driver have good all-round visibility? Can they get both into and out of the cab safely? What safeguards will avoid individuals coming into contact with dangerous parts of the vehicle, such as exhausts or chain drives? And are there methods for preventing the vehicle from moving when not in use?
Regular maintenance is also required to ensure vehicles are in proper working order at all times, meaning companies are responsible for examining steering mechanisms, brakes, mirrors, tyres, ladders or sidewalks, warning devices – such as horns and reversing alarms – and also specific safety systems, like control interlocks, cut-off switches and secure points for ropes and other attachments.
Firms should also focus on the weight of loads that will be carried by machinery and also ensure working conditions – such as extreme cold or heat – will not affect the safe use of a vehicle.
Cases that highlight the risk
The HSE has prosecuted countless companies over the years for safety breaches involving the improper use of vehicles, so here are just a few examples of what to avoid.
A Lincolnshire farming company was prosecuted earlier this year when an employee suffered multiple injuries when he was struck by a poorly-maintained tractor.
Wheathill Farms pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 for failing to maintain the tractor and was fined GBP 10,000.
It emerged at a hearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court that the injured worker suffered severe crushing injuries to his pelvis when the tractor was left in gear and its wheels were not chocked while he carried out a task in the surrounding area.
The faulty nature of the tractor’s starter motor meant the employee did not wish to switch off the engine, but this meant that when it was unattended it had a tendency to move off of its own accord – something which resulted in a severe and avoidable accident.
HSE inspector Berian Price said: “Although the tractor was not subject to an MOT there was still a duty on Wheathill Farms to make sure it was kept in good repair and in efficient working order.
“It wasn’t a big or expensive job to replace the starter motor yet employees were put at risk, and a worker was very seriously injured because no-one from the company saw fit to remedy the problem.”
Meanwhile, a Birmingham construction firm was hit with fines totalling GBP 15,000 after an investigation launched by the HSE into an accident involving a seven-tonne digger revealed serious safety failings for the business.
A man suffered severe injuries including a ruptured bladder and fractured wrist when he was run over by the heavy machine in an incident at a building site on Jubilee Way South in Birmingham in November 2010.
HSE inspector Nic Rigby commented after the hearing: “Those in charge of construction sites must ensure that pedestrians and vehicles are effectively and safely segregated. There is clear guidance on how to achieve this and ensure incidents of this kind can be avoided.”