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ALEM committed to safety

01 August 2013

At the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) Safety Conference in September 2012, it was revealed that fork lift truck accidents are once again on the rise. Delegates heard the “latest figures from the HSE reveal a 4% increase in serious fork lift accidents in 2010/2011, following a two year decline in accidents requiring hospitalisation, such as amputations, dislocations and long-bone fractures.”

During the conference, ALEM member Thorworld Industries picked up on this theme by highlighting the importance of safety in the loading and unloading area. Mark James, Thorworld’s Health & Safety Manager, used his address to outline key hazards, suggest solutions and advise on relevant and applicable standards and directives for loading and unloading equipment.

"The vehicle loading and unloading area is potentially one of the most hazardous areas in any company, warehouse or distribution centre,” explains Mark James. "Without a robust safety strategy, this area is an accident waiting to happen.”

Amongst the areas that Thorworld highlighted was the scope for operators or fork lifts to fall where there exists a height variation and/or a horizontal gap – and the various bridging devices (such as dock levellers, scissor lift tables or yardramps) and essential accessories including gates and handrails that can be used to protect against this.

Movement of vehicles is another area that must be carefully controlled to avoid trapping or crushing operators, or prevent fork lifts falling off the back of trailers. Thorworld detailed the preventative options available, from wheel chocks to air locks to complex key removal protocols.

Martin Paynter, Managing Director of ALEM member company Stertil UK, is keen to stress that regular maintenance of loading bay equipment is vital to ensure safe and efficient operation. "In fact,” he says. "A proper maintenance programme makes legal as well as business sense.”

"It’s easy to criticise the over-zealous application of Health and Safety regulations but when an accident does occur, the cost to the transport company is substantial - and the distress to the injured party and the family may be devastating.”

Maintenance is an easy target when cost-cutting. You need to find a reasonably-priced maintenance contractor who will ensure compliance with all the necessary legislation – but how? A list of ALEM members will offer many options for suppliers who match these requirements. The list of regulations relevant to loading bays is not short. Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. Health and safety regulations have been expanded over recent years to include the maintenance of industrial doors, dock levellers and lift tables. Regular, competent maintenance of equipment is mandatory, as are accurate records of that maintenance.

The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 not only call for industrial doors to be kept in good working order, they also state that specific safety features, such as emergency stop buttons and anti-fall devices, should be fitted to doors.

Lifting equipment regulations were updated in 2008 and require equipment to be strong and stable; marked to indicate safe working loads; positioned to minimise risk; and subject to regular thorough inspection. Compliance is straightforward enough if you have a sensible maintenance programme with an ALEM member.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 include dock levellers and require firms to prevent health and safety risks to employees from equipment. Equipment should be suitable for the intended use; maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances, inspected to ensure this is the case. Only users with adequate training should operate it and it should be accompanied by safety measures such as protective devices, markings and warnings.

Although much of what’s contained in the regulations is common sense, compliance can only be assured with a regular maintenance regime.

Paul Addis, Managing Director of ALEM member Ratcliff Palfinger has a particular interest in highlighting the impact of design, use and maintenance on the safety of tail lifts. He says, "It’s easy to criticise the over-zealous application of Health and Safety regulations but when an accident does occur, the cost to the transport company is substantial - and the distress to the injured party and the family may be devastating.”

ALEM, directly, and via its representation on the BSI standards committee for lifting equipment MHE/12, makes representations to the UK authorities and Brussels to ensure that the requirements in the European Directive for Machine Safety are proportionate to the risks. This Directive has been encompassed in the laws of the Member States – including, of course, the UK. In the case of tail lifts, the relevant law is the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.
Backing up these Regulations, and making them specific to tail lifts, are the European Standards, EN 1756-1 and EN 1756-2 for goods lifts and passenger lifts respectively. Again ALEM currently provides the UK delegation leaders to the committees responsible for writing these Standards.

Analysis of tail lift accident statistics has shown that the risk of slipping on, or falling from, a tail lift platform represents a significant hazard. Accordingly, EN1756-1 is currently being reviewed, and a future amendment is likely to require the fitting of side guards or handrails to protect operators on the platform, together with the provision of high-grip platform surfaces.

This issue is potentially contentious with some operators feeling that gates or guards would be expensive, interfere with manoeuvrability, delay operations and aggravate noise levels. However, a number of leading manufacturers have anticipated this change in the Standard by offering such devices as optional equipment. Considerable ingenuity has gone into the development of platform guards to overcome the transport industry’s reluctance to use them. For example, several of them deploy automatically as the platform is being opened.

The law also requires that tail lift operations must be properly planned, the operator trained and adequate supervision provided. As part of this duty a risk assessment needs to be carried out. These responsibilities are covered in the PUWER and LOLER regulations and the Management Regulations. Several ALEM tail lift manufacturers offer training in the users’ responsibility under this legislation. One of the most important aspects of LOLER is the statutory requirement to carry out a Thorough Examination of the tail lift at intervals not exceeding 6 months. This obligation is backed by penalties under criminal law. Again, the leading manufacturers offer guidance and training on this subject.

Given that a tail lift has been designed and used properly, it is important that its maintenance programme ensures it remains safe – and reliable – throughout its life. Major tail lift suppliers have countrywide service organisations that are trained and certified by the manufacturer to provide specialist support and maintenance, several of these offering a full 24/7 service.

It’s one of ALEM’s stated aims to make both the industry and the enduser aware of how to comply with legislation and members must themselves be 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. All of which makes ALEM the best place to start to ensure the ongoing safety of your loading bay equipment.