HSE calls for wider use of mechanical handling equipment 20 July 2015

Hydraulically powered crane enables can aid safety Hydraulically powered crane enables can aid safety

According to Health & Safety Executive statistics, falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for nearly three in ten (29%) fatal injuries to workers in 2013 to 2014.

In total, there were 5952 fatal, major or over seven day RIDDOR reportable accidents reported during this same time period as a result of working from height.

The purpose of Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) is to prevent death and injury from a fall from height. Work at height means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. For example, a construction worker working on the bed of a 3.5 tonne commercial vehicle loading building materials on and off the vehicle. The regulations apply to any employer or person that controls work at height (for example a contractor or a factory owner).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend that we take a sensible approach when considering precautions for work at height. There may be some low-risk situations where common sense tells you no particular precautions are necessary and the law recognises this. However, before working at height. The regulations state that you must work through some simple steps. These steps include; where work at height cannot be avoided, falls must be prevented using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment. It is a requirement to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated and finally and most importantly, avoiding work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so. This point is further discussed in the regulations where it states that one should "do as much work as possible from the ground".

Avoiding work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so is where work equipment, such as mechanical handling devices can help. A simple and common task such as manually loading goods such as tooling or building materials on and off a pickup bed is classed as working from height and therefore should be avoided.

The use of a hydraulically powered crane enables this potentially unsafe task to be carried out in safety from ground level. Fixed proportional controls are installed on the vehicle in a position that enables the operator to adjust all functions of the crane whilst their feet are safely on the ground. Cranes have multiple hydraulic extensions and it is typical for all extensions to be hydraulically powered, again, this ensures that there is no unnecessary climbing onto the vehicle bed at height to manually extend crane booms to get goods into the required positon. Instead this can be done by precise and controlled hydraulic handling.

Where lifting equipment such as a crane is used to avoid unnecessary working from height it is vital that the crane be accompanied by an indication (clear to everyone involved) when the last Thorough Examination, in accordance with Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) has been carried out. LOLER requires that all equipment used for lifting is fit for purpose, appropriate for the task, suitably marked and, in many cases, subject to these statutory periodic 'thorough examinations'.

The onus is not solely on the employer or work controller. Employees have general legal duties to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions, and to co-operate with their employer to enable their health and safety duties and requirements to be complied with.

For an employee, or those working under someone else's control, the law says they must; report any safety hazard they identify to their employer, use the equipment and safety devices supplied or given to them properly, in accordance with any training and instructions (unless they think that would be unsafe, in which case they should seek further instructions before continuing).

Summarising, this means that if as an employer you supply mechanical handling equipment such as a hydraulic crane, then your employees are legally obliged to use this equipment when suitable to do so. Robin Penny, MD at Penny Hydraulics comments "The supply of mechanical handling equipment such as a hydraulic crane should help give employers peace of mind that they are fulfilling their duty of care to employees by putting steps in place to avoid accidents as a result of working from height and it's helpful to know that the law supports this by stating that employees must use the equipment."

Mark Venables

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Health & Safety Executive

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