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Don't delay bay safety

12 December 2012

Regular maintenance will pay dividends in terms of increased safety and efficiency in the loading bay, says John Meale, md of Thorworld Industries In the current economic downturn, where companies might delay loading

Regular maintenance will pay dividends in terms of increased safety and efficiency in the loading bay, says John Meale, md of Thorworld Industries

In the current economic downturn, where companies might delay loading bay and materials handling equipment renewal or upgrades, it is now even more vital for regular pre-planned service and maintenance of existing load handling equipment to be implemented. Failure to do so is a false economy which could have serious and expensive consequences for both machinery owners and operators.

An estimated 25 per cent of factory and warehouse accidents occur in and around the loading bay. High levels of personnel and mechanical traffic, often combined with a low appreciation of the risks involved, mean that loading bays can, potentially, be extremely hazardous places in which to work.

The British Safety Council has warned that in the current business climate there is a danger that firms will cut back on health and safety planning and implementation. This is a shortsighted approach as it could lead to equipment failure, together with a possible increase in personal injuries at work.

Statutory obligations There are a number of statutory obligations where it is a legal requirement for loading bay and load handling equipment, including industrial doors, mobile yard ramps, dock levellers, lifting platforms and scissor lifts, to be subject to Thorough Examination inspections, in conjunction with regular service and maintenance programmes.

These include the Health & Safety at Work Act; the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER); Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and the Machinery Directive.

In general terms, the PUWER regulations - which cover the use of mobile loading ramps - require that equipment provided for use at work is: Suitable for the intended use.

Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances, inspected to ensure this remains the case.

Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training.

Accompanied by suitable safety measures, e.g. protective devices, markings and warnings.

The new Machinery Directive (effective from 29.12.09) has been introduced with the aim of reducing the number of accidents relating to machinery use by setting much stricter safety standards.

Not just about regulations There are also additional recommendations from the Federation Europeene de la Manutention (FEM) - the European Materials Handling Federation - under their Periodic Inspection of Lifting Tables and Dock Levellers guidelines (see www.fem-eur.com for more information).

However, making sure your loading bay area is safe is not just about meeting the correct regulations. It shows that as a responsible employer, you take health and safety issues seriously and are concerned about the well-being of your employees.

If you fail to meet the appropriate regulations and do not service and maintain your load handling equipment properly, it can result in a fine and, if an employee is injured in an accident due to equipment not being maintained properly, it might also mean you could be faced with an expensive personal injury claim, as well as possibly invalidating any manufacturer warranties.

Badly maintained equipment can also lead to expensive downtime with vital work and productivity being badly disrupted.

Buying equipment from a reputable supplier and implementing a regular inspection and maintenance schedule as part of a pre-planned service contract is an extremely costeffective way of avoiding such problems, while also extending machinery working life.

It's crucial that all your loading bay equipment bears the CE mark. This is the manufacturer's confirmation that that it meets all the essential health and safety requirements of the Machinery Directive.

Thorworld is BSI registered with CE mark certification and has been ISO 9001 accredited since 1992.

Competent persons key To meet the PUWER and LOLER requirements, checks have to be carried out by a 'competent person'. Thorworld service and maintenance contracts are available for all relevant equipment provided by the company (such as mobile container loading ramps, electro-hydraulic dock levellers, mobile lifting platforms and scissor lifts). This delivers compliance with all the relevant regulations.

Spending a relatively small amount each year on a pre-planned service and maintenance agreement is a valuable long-term investment, just like taking out an extended service contract on a car after the manufacturer's warranty has expired. It will save money, increase personnel safety, ensure you keep within the law and, at the same time, extend the working life of your equipment by keeping it in a tip-top safe and efficient working condition - providing peace of mind for all concerned.