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November 16, 2011

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Equipment manufacturers urged to design out risk

Makers of industrial equipment need to “up their game” and produce machinery that goes beyond certain existing European and international standards, according to the health and safety director for the Mineral Products Association (MPA).
Martin Isles raised his concerns about the safety of equipment used in the quarrying industry during an evidence hearing held last week by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, which is currently examining the health and safety regime in Scotland.
“For an item of equipment to be put on sale in the UK, it must have the CE mark,” he explained to the MPs. “We do not have a lot of confidence in the CE mark. All our members, when receiving or ordering a piece of equipment, will require a long list of extras to be fitted to make it safe for use in the UK.
“We are all part of the EU machinery directive and that relies a lot on EN standards –Euro norms – and international ISO standards. Although those standards are being developed and updated, they will always lag behind best practice. I think that is a fact we have to accept, but in our association we have an initiative called Safer by Design, which, basically, strongly urges manufacturers – falling short of creating barriers to trade – effectively to up their game and produce equipment for this country that is safe to use.”
He went on to explain that after an incident in 2007 at an open-cast mine at Pennyvenie, in which two men were crushed to death in their 4×4 vehicle by a 100-tonne dump truck, offside cameras to view blind spots are now fitted to large dump trucks at the site.

“We believe these should be fitted as standard,” said Isles. “If it is an add-on, or retrofit and it goes wrong, the cost is down to the user; if it is part of the original equipment, it is covered by the warranty. We believe manufacturers have responsibilities to produce equipment that we and everybody, including the HSE, deem safe.”

Isles pointed out that making such extra design features compulsory would raise barriers to trade, but announced that the MPA is seeking to acquire funding next year to extend its Safer by Design scheme and promote its principles.
Highlighting the impact that risk-eliminating design could have on reducing injuries in the sector, he added: “If you are fuelling a machine, do you have to climb a ladder to fuel it, or could it be done at ground level? There are now fast-fill options, a bit like Formula One. You can have a fill mechanism at bumper level so that you do not have to climb up anything. If you do not have to climb up, you cannot fall off.

“For our industry, 50 per cent of injuries are down to slips, trips and falls. They are not necessarily the most serious injuries, but in terms of quantitative injuries 50 per cent is the standard figure, and it has not changed since I started collecting data back in 1996.”

The National Farmers Union Scotland, which gave evidence at the same hearing, said modern machines had become potentially more dangerous in an agricultural setting because of the use of electronic switches instead of mechanical levers.

President Nigel Miller told the committee: “Accidents have happened because a dog or child has been left in the cab of a tractor, or forklift. A switch has been flicked inadvertently and the machine has been put in motion, or the hydraulics have been activated and somebody is trapped, or crushed. In a normal industrial situation those are things that never happen, but on a farm it does. Maybe those are the things we have to think through a bit in engineering terms.”

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12 years ago

PUWER 1998 reg 4(4) applies, this was a requirement prior to the 2007. Manufacturers argue, goods supplied may not always be used with such risk anticipated? Any industry being the end user has to ensure that Plant/Equipment is fit for use according to thier work place risks, this burden does not rest at present with the supplier. Improvement in visibility was available and not used. Amazing, how Judith Hackett praised these same quarrying firms recently? Does this not contradict the MPA?