Campaign of education and support
06 January 2020
ALEM is celebrating over 40 years of campaigning, educating and supporting the industry.
Established in 1973, the Association of Loading and Elevating Equipment Manufacturers (ALEM) represents the interests of UK manufacturers and suppliers of loading bay equipment including dock levellers, scissor lifts, tail lifts and dock shelters. In this role, the Association is a member of the British Materials Handling Association which itself is the UK national member of FEM - the European Federation of Materials Handling and Storage Equipment.
ALEM continues to take the lead a range of initiatives designed to support its members and, ultimately, their customers. For example, safety has always been a high priority for ALEM and the Association is at the forefront of the introduction and implementation of significant European standards.
Typical of these is the latest European guidance regarding the assessment of the safety and performance of vehicle restraining devices.
FEM published a document (EN 11.005) outlining guidance for the use of vehicle restraint systems to prevent ‘vehicle creep’ and unintended ‘driveaways’ during the loading and unloading of lorries, trucks and trailers. The document defines safety, performance and operating recommendations to provide a uniform means of comparison, improve user confidence and define safety aspects of various vehicle restraining devices. Importantly, the guidance states that health and safety requirements will define which vehicle restraint device should be selected depending on the risk assessment and/or local conditions.
The Association has also focused on ensuring that member companies have the opportunity to ensure that employees are suitably qualified to carry out their duties effectively and safely. To this end, some years ago, ALEM decided to investigate the possibility of developing an NVQ Level 2 to meet the skills competence requirement of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS).
The CSCS is run by CITB on behalf of the Major Contractors Group and the related new qualification would cover the installation, repair and maintenance of ALEM-related products. It was decided to pursue one NVQ to cover those working on lift tables, dock levellers and other loading bay equipment, rather than have a separate NVQ for each product type.
The first step was to create a National Occupation Standard (NOS) which would be used as a basis for developing the NVQ. Once the NOS had been created with a Sector Skills Council it was necessary to get an Awarding Body to turn it into an NVQ. CSkills Awards, associated with the CITB, believed it to be financially viable, so took on the NOS and converted it into an NVQ (QUL800) - Specialist Installation Occupations (Construction) - Loading Bay Equipment - Installation or Maintenance.
ALEM then approached the National Specialists Accredited Centre - NSAC, based in Thurmaston, Leicestershire, and they agreed to act as the Approved Centre for the NVQ, administering the candidate registrations, record keeping, checking the Assessors, referring successful candidates for the Awards, etc., without need for any input from ALEM. Developing the NVQ had been a long process but the decision to progress an NVQ was entirely justified with news that construction sites would be more rigorously enforcing the need for an appropriate CSCS card.
An ever-present threat is posed by counterfeit and non-compliant equipment and machinery from both inside and outside of the EU. Manufacturers and importers of non-compliant equipment operate in contravention of 17 separate EU Directives and Regulations applying to the materials handling industry. These ensure the design and construction of safe, sustainable, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and ergonomic materials handling equipment. Significantly, compliance with these directives is law for any EU-based manufacturer but comes at a financial cost to both the manufacturer and the customer.
ALEM is committed to educating members in compliance and, as a matter of course, all ALEM member companies also commit to manufacturing ranges of materials handling equipment to increase efficiency and safety in and around the loading bay including dock shelters and seals, dock levellers, loading docks, mobile yardramps and vehicle restraint systems. Accordingly, each company invests considerable amounts of time, expertise and money to ensure that these products fully comply with all relevant EU Directives and Regulations and are completely safe to use.
However, many products are imported from countries where manufacturing standards are poor and regulations, where they exist, are less stringent. Whilst equipment and machinery destined for EU countries are legally required to meet its legislative standards, many fail to do so.
ALEM members are constantly encountering problems in imported, inferior materials handling equipment that fail to meet even the most basic health and safety requirements. These problems include incorrect steel grades being used during the manufacturing process, incorporation of poor quality components, sub standard welding during assembly operations plus general instability and weakness of structures used to take the weight of fork trucks and other heavy mobile equipment. All of this adds up to a toxic mix that has been shown to endanger the lives of equipment operators and other workers using non-compliant imported machinery.
ALEM advises potential purchasers of materials handling equipment to check the credentials of the company that has manufactured it. All ALEM members are committed to complying with all relevant European Standards, the UK Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations and CE marking. In return for this commitment, the Association offers support, technical expertise and an unrivalled position within the industry, both in Europe and at home.