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Only YOU hold the KEY to safe working at your site

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Make sure that your site safey is at an acceptable standard.
Recently we have seen two high profile prosecutions for unacceptable standards of management with regards to the interaction of people and vehicles in the workplace, it seems an ideal time to re-visit some of the unsafe working practices I witness and challenge on a regular basis in my work as a safety consultant.


In one incident in my home county of Derbyshire a civil engineering company has been fined £300K when a 39 year old man was crushed by a reversing tipper lorry whilst he was refuelling his own vehicle in the same yard at the start of the day. The other vehicle did not see him although he assumed it could see him.

In another incident in Lancashire, two companies were together fined £815K when a young man (and father to be) was crushed by the tailgate of a refuse collection vehicle. The incident was caused by the failure of a safety limit switch which was not being checked periodically for safe operating condition (as it should have been).

Yet despite incidents like these being widely publicised, complacency still often reigns when I challenge ‘blind’ and uncontrolled reversing vehicle movements in yards up and down the country.
Phil Wass
Phil Wass is a Chartered Safety and Health practitioner and has a Masters Degree in Occupational Health and Safety. He is Managing Director of Wass Management Limited who specialise in all aspects of health and safety training, advice and guidance. Phil is an advisor to the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers' Association and understands the needs of the industry. He regularly carries out work for MVDA members.

If you have any health and safety issues, visit Wass Management Limited, email Phil or you can contact him on 01773 541441
Everyone seems to think that these things happen to others but will never happen to them.

I used the first of these incidents to scare one of my own clients into taking action at his site where I have been observing and commenting for several years on similar potentially unsafe people / vehicle interactions. I am delighted to say that as I am writing this article he is pricing up marked walkways and crossing points for pedestrians at his site. He is also installing an additional pedestrian only gate into and out of the yard so people don’t have to share the same route as commercial vehicles.

But, until I made him aware of one of these prosecutions (which happened on his doorstep) he had been reluctant to take my advice seriously.

Another common issue I come across and challenge is the practice of allowing keys to be left in unattended fork lift trucks.

Very often my challenge of such practices is met with very convincing counter arguments outlining why it is advantageous to the business to allow such behaviours to take place. I am told that ‘no-one would dream of attempting to move a truck without authorisation and without being trained and competent’.

I am running a training session in Nottingham today and am writing this article during my lunch break.

Earlier this morning I played a film clip to my group of learners featuring a plant manager in Scotland who nipped home briefly to change and accidentally (not deliberately) left a fork truck unattended with the keys in the ignition at the site under his control.

The unthinkable did happen (even in this very short period of time) and someone did try to move the truck while he was absent from the workplace. In the process of carrying out this unauthorised activity another worker was crushed and seriously injured but survived. So who did the courts hold to account in this example on film? The manager himself!

He was fined personally under section 37 of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

In the film (made some time afterwards) he is still clearly traumatised by the event.

We know from statistics that falling from height, being struck by a moving vehicle and being struck by a falling object are the three most common ways in which a death at work will occur in this country.

We cannot assume that these incidents happen to other people at other sites.

If we do then one day you may be unlucky and it may just happen at yours.

Are you ready to face the consequences?

If not then, I urge you to re-visit some of the work activities such as these that you take for granted as safe and rethink the current controls you have in place. Are they REALLY good enough?

December 2016

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