Workplace vehicle safety Leicester

Workplace Vehicle Safety Leicester

Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-11-22 13:39

Vehicle Safety is Imperative

Just recently a commercial vehicle company was ordered to pay more than £212,000 after a worker was killed at one of its West Midlands sites. Craig Stewart Dunn, a father of three aged 44, was working for Imperial Commercial Ltd in Wellesbourne when he was crushed by a heavy goods vehicle. The lorry had been travelling less than 5km per hour and its driver thought he'd hit a stationary vehicle.

The court was told that occasionally employees of Imperial Commercials would drive HGV’s around the Wellesbourne site in an unsafe manner. Imperial Commercials, which is registered at Imperial House, High Wycombe, was fined £166,000 and ordered to pay £46,500 in costs after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

What is probably most distressing is that the tragic loss of life could have been prevented had the company properly considered the risks from the movement of heavy goods vehicles at the site. There was no effective segregation of pedestrians from moving vehicles and this was a direct cause of the incident. 

Vehicle safety in the workplace is imperative for your business and the welfare of your staff, it is as simple as that. Needless loss of life will result from inaction, while the fines and court hearings are difficult for a company the loss of life must be devestating. Especially when it could be preventable. Let's look at what you can do to keep workplace vehicles safe. 

Your Duty As An Employer

Employers and any dutyholders must make sure that the vehicles used in the workplace are safe, driven safely, and regularly maintained, repaired and inspected. It is as simple and all encompassing as that. We say that because while it is a simple statement, to actually do so is a complex task that covers many elements. In this article we would like to try and break down those elements so that you have a better idea of what exactly you need to be concerned about when it comes to Vehicle safety in your workplace. 

Safe vehicles in your workplace

What Do You Need To Do

Let's look at the general requirements on you by law. Every employer must do the following

  • make sure that all work equipment (which includes vehicles) is suitable for its purpose
  • take account of the prevailing working conditions
  • assess the risks to the health and safety of using the chosen work equipment

Questions you should ask yourself

In order that you fulfil the above requirements you should apply them from the beginning of any purchase of workplace equipment. So when choosing workplace equipment you should always ask yourself a series of questions relating to the specification of the equipment in relation to your health and safety requirements. When considering a workplace vehicle, the questions you should ask and answer are as follows. 

  • Does the driver have good all-round visibility?
  • What warning systems (such as horns and lights) are fitted?
  • Are the seat belts and restraints safe and comfortable and do they meet the needs of the job?
  • What safeguards will prevent people from coming into contact with dangerous parts of the vehicle such as power take-offs, chain drives, exposed hot exhaust pipes?
  • Can drivers get in and out of the cab safely and easily?
  • What protection is there from bad weather, extremes of temperature, dirt, dust and fumes?
  • Is there a way to prevent injury if the vehicle overturns? For example, roll protection, operator restraints or falling object protection?
  • Is there a way to prevent the vehicle from moving? For example, by applying brakes and removing the keys?
  • Is the vehicle bright enough to be seen?
  • Do the vehicle lights provide enough light for the driver to work?

The design of workplace vehicles that are to be used on public roads has to meet specific legal standards, set out in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to be street legal. The overall standard of any vehicles used in workplaces should be at least as good as for public roads. For some mobile plant in the workplace such as fork lift trucks there are specific supply standards.

Safe manoeuvring of Workplace Vehicles

What You Need To Know

Many incidents occur when workplace vehicles are manoeuvring in particular when they are reversing. The incidents usually relate to visibility, the position of other vehicles and the actions or inaction of pedestrians. All vehicles should have large enough windscreens (with wipers where necessary) and external mirrors to provide an all-round field of vision for the driver. 

Drivers should not place any objects internally in the cab or externally on the load bay or body where they will impede all round visibility. Where possible, the need for reversing vehicles should be eliminated. Again, many incidents occur when vehicles are being reversed, if you can plan a system that eliminates or reduces the need to reverse you will have cut the chances of an accident occurring. Let's break down the different elements you need to consider.

Mirrors

You can never have enough mirrors! As well as the conventional side mirrors that come with the vehicle, it is often worthwhile for you to consider if there is more you can do. Is there an opportunity to add extra mirrors to reduce the vehicle blind spots for your drivers. There are many multi side mirrors that will allow drivers of larger vehicles to see cyclists and pedestrians alongside their vehicles. Vehicle They can be effective in improving visibility around the vehicle from the driving position. Generally these mirrors are fitted to larger road-going vehicles as standard, however if any of your smaller vans don't have them, consider if it is worthwhile to have them fitted.

A clear view out of the cab

Drivers should not place any items in the windscreen area or in the way of mirrors or in cab monitors, where they might impede visibility from the driving position. The area windscreen view should not be obscured, and nor should the side windows. The driver should be responsible for keeping windows and mirrors clean and in good repair. Dirt or cracks can make windows or mirrors less effective, the driver must inform you if either the windows or mirrors are cracked in order that they can be repaired.

Some workplace vehicles often have poor visibility from the cab. Visibility can be poor to the side or front of a vehicle as well as behind, and loads on vehicles can severely limit the visibility from the driving position. In particular, fork lift trucks, teleporter vehicles and compact dumper vehicles can have difficulty with forward visibility when they are transporting bulky loads. These risks need to be recognised in your risk assessment and you need to consider ways to minimise them.

Closed-circuit television

Vehicle closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems can help drivers to see clearly behind or around the vehicle. This type of CCTV can easily cover most blind spots. The cost of fitting the systems has fallen dramatically since they were first developed. This type of system is especially useful for reversing and when fitted it can help to reduce the number of reversing accidents. 

Other systems

Reversing sensors that are powered by radar are useful as a reversing aid. Although they should not be relied on and drivers should never be complacent. 

Reversing alarms are of some benefit, however, on some sites they may be drowned out by other noise. It is important that we don't forget that some people will do idiotic things like ignoring reversing alarms and darting behind a reversing vehicle because they think they can make it. Not just that, people with hearing loss are less likely to hear the alarm or be able to locate where it is coming from. Again, the devices are excellent but the driver should never be complacent. 

Immobilising vehicles 

What You Need To Know

To protect people working on or near vehicles, they must not move when they are parked and during loading, unloading and other operations. In these cases vehicles need to have a mechanism that immobilises them. In most cases the handbrake of a vehicle is sufficient to the task. However, in some cases and with some vehicles and their tasks, the handbrake is not enough. Let's take a run through of what you need to consider. 

Brakes

All workplace vehicles should have suitable and effective brakes for purpose. It is imperative that you ensure that any braking system in a vehicle is routinely inspected and maintained. In the case of tanker vehicles, some have a safety system that prevents the vehicle brakes from being released until the delivery hose has been stored. These systems are designed to ensure that the vehicle can't be moved while the delivery is still under way. 

On some vehicles, the handbrake will only secure the rear wheels, you need to be aware of this. For instance, on some vehicles using the outriggers can raise the rear wheels off the ground. This may mean that the handbrake has been compromised because the rear wheels aren't in contact with the ground. 

Outriggers and chocks

If manufacturers provide wheel chocks with your vehicle, always ensure that they are used when vehicles are stationary. There should be Information on chocking with the vehicle operating instructions. You should give clear instruction to your drivers to make sure the wheels remain in contact with the ground when operating outriggers, and to use chocks where provided.

Trailers and tractor units

Every trailer unit has fail-safe emergency air brakes which lock the trailer wheels when the air hose connection with the trailer is disconnected.  This is in order that if the trailer breaks away from the tractor unit the line is broken and the brakes are automatically applied to immobilise the trailer.

In some case drivers will use the emergency brakes as parking brakes when they uncouple the trailer units, because they are disconnecting the hose anyway. This is very bad practise and needs to be avoided. Air brakes on the trailer should be applied properly and never by just disconnecting the hose. The emergency brakes alone should not be relied on to secure a trailer in place.

Although the brakes used on the emergency system are the same for both the parking and emergency brakes. The control mechanism for each is different, there is great danger in relying on the emergency braking system to secure the trailer.

Vehicle runaway accidents

When another driver comes along and reconnects the hose, the emergency brakes will free up immediately. This could allow the vehicle move with the driver being away from the cab. These type of vehicle runaway accidents happen often and they are completely preventable.

These type of vehicle runaway accidents often cause serious injuries and even if nobody is hurt, there is likely to be damage to the vehicle, buildings or other plant. In order to avoid runaway vehicle accidents you should instruct your drivers to ensure the parking brakes on both the tractor and the trailer are engaged.

Inspection, maintenance and repair

What You Need To Know

Again, it is simple, by law every employer must make sure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. As we have said earlier, that also covers any and all vehicles used in the workplace. 

Inspection

It is important that you introduce a clear list of daily checks for each vehicle that should be undertaken before the vehicle is used. Drivers should check tyres, lights and indicators at the start of every shift, they should also check any other device or instrument that is specific to the vehicle for health & safety requirements. In the case of vehicle specific checks, you should ensure that drivers are given training on carrying out appropriate checks and reporting problems. It makes sense for you to provide daily check lists and make sure that drivers undertake the checks and sign off for their vehicles.

Planned maintenance

Regular preventive maintenance inspections can be based on time or mileage and are usually recommended by the manufacturer. It is imperative that you continue the upkeep of vehicles. Planned maintenance of vehicles helps to prevent breakdowns and failures during use. All maintenance and inspections must be thorough, regular and frequent enough to meet the manufacturer's guidelines. The HSE advises that you should pay special attention to the following:

  • brakes;
  • steering;
  • tyres;
  • mirrors and any fittings that allow the driver to see clearly (for example, CCTV cameras);
  • windscreen washers and wipers;
  • warning devices (for example, horns, reversing alarms or lights);
  • ladders, steps, or walkways;
  • pipes, pneumatic or hydraulic hoses, rams, outriggers, lifting systems or other moving parts or systems; and
  • specific safety systems, for example, control interlocks to prevent the vehicle or its equipment from moving unintentionally, racking, securing points for ropes.

Securing loads

What You Need To Know

All employers and duty holders must make sure that loads are safely secured and anchored to the vehicle. It is also important that the anchor points and the vehicle is strong enough to take the strain of the load.

What you should consider in relation to loads

It is important that any anchor points for loads are designed to spread the weight and forces they receive into the main structure of the vehicle. This is particularly important if you are retro-fitting anchor points. It is important that you ensure that the securing equipment you use is compatible with the anchor points on your workplace vehicles. It is important that all securing equipment and attachments meet the relevant British Standards. Eye bolts should meet BS 427819 and shackles should meet BS 3551.

It is important that when individual parts of load-retention strapping, de-mountable lifting chains, lifting cables and other systems need to be replaced because of wear or damage. That they should be replaced in sets as this helps to make sure there are not large differences in the levels of stress that different pieces have been exposed to.

You need to ensure that all of your health and safety precautions pertaining to vehicles in the workplace are continuous. This will help you to keep risks as low as reasonably possible. Make sure you keep the risk assessment up-to-date with working practises and equipment. if you have any questions about workplace vehicle safety, driver medicals, workplace drug and alcohol screening for your drivers, or you are looking for health and safety services in Leicester or across the UK, don't hesitate to call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online. 

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