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Thorworld boss hits out at unsafe loading ramp imports

The head of a major manufacturer and supplier of loading bay and materials handling equipment has criticised the lack of quality standards in some cheap imports now coming into the UK.

John Meale, managing director of Thorworld Industries Ltd, said he recently came across a new loading ramp made in Eastern Europe that he considered was totally unsafe to use.

“I was appalled that the ramp, which did not have the CE-mark, was a major health and safety hazard,” he said. “The welding on it was so poor you could see that there was little or no real weld penetration, the ramp was bent, the hydraulics did not work and the floor was weak. I dread to think what would happen if someone attempted to drive a loaded fork lift truck to the rated capacity on it.”

Mr Meale, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics (FCILT), is a former President of the British Materials Handling Federation (BMHF), a past Chairman of the Association of Leading & Elevating Equipment Manufacturers (ALEM), is currently a board member of the Federation Europeenne de la Manutention (FEM) – the European Federation of Materials Handling, and is also President of the FEM Product Group on Elevating Equipment.

He said increasing amounts of cheap and inferior loading bay equipment that did not carry the CE-mark were coming into the country, particularly from Eastern Europe and Asia.

“I am not condemning all imports from these regions, just those that do not meet the appropriate European quality and safety standards. We ourselves source some components for our equipment from outside the UK, but always ensure that they fully conform to all the appropriate EU standards, as well as meeting our own exacting requirements”.

Thorworld specialises in the manufacture and supply of loading and unloading equipment and claims to set the UK industry standard when it comes to providing the highest quality, safe yardramps and other materials handling products.

All its mobile yardramps, like its other equipment, have the CE-mark. The yardramps, supplied through its specialist RentARamp division, also conform to the stringent EC Dock Leveller Standard and are available for purchase or rental on a sale or return basis.

Mr Meale said that every member of the company's welding team is highly experienced, has been thoroughly trained and is certified to BS4872 Part 1 & 2.

Thorworld was one of the first companies in its sector to achieve the coveted ISO 9001: 2000 international quality management accreditation, at its first attempt.

The main differences over the old ISO 9000 standard, which it gained some 14 years previously, is that it is much more customer focussed and shows that the company is continually striving to make improvements. It strongly emphasises the incorporation of quality standards in its systems, procedures, documentation and total employee involvement.

According to Mr Meale, using materials handling equipment that does not have the CE-mark, whether imported or not, threatens the health and safety of personnel in the workplace.

“Price should not be the only measure when sourcing new equipment, he said. “My recommendation is to beware of 'inferior imitations'. For peace of mind companies should avoid them at all costs, even if it means having to paying a slightly higher price for a much higher quality product. This will undoubtedly prove to be a better and safer overall investment in the longer term. It's best to speak to well established suppliers who provide good quality products complying with all the latest European regulations”.

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