In an economic downturn, where companies might delay loading bay and materials handling equipment renewal or upgrades, it is even more vital for regular pre-planned service and maintenance of existing load handling equipment to be implemented. Failure to do so is a false economy which could have serious and expensive consequences for both machinery owners and operators, says John Meale, Managing Director of market-leading loading/unloading equipment specialists Thorworld Industries Ltd.
An estimated 25 per cent of factory and warehouse accidents occur in and around the loading bay. High levels of personnel and mechanical traffic, often combined with a low appreciation of the risks involved, mean that loading bays can, potentially, be extremely hazardous places in which to work.
The British Safety Council has warned that in the current business climate there is a danger that firms will cut back on health and safety planning and implementation. This is a short-sighted approach as it could lead to potential equipment failure, together with a possible increase in personal injuries at work.
There are a number of statutory obligations where it is a legal requirement for loading bay and load handling equipment, including industrial doors, mobile yard ramps, dock levellers, lifting platforms and scissor lifts, to be subject to Thorough Examination inspections, in conjunction with regular service and maintenance programmes.
These include the Health & Safety at Work Act; the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER); Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and the Machinery Directive.
In general terms the PUWER regulations – which cover the use of mobile loading ramps – require that equipment provided for use at work is:
F0B7 Suitable for the intended use
F0B7 Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances, inspected to ensure this remains the case
F0B7 Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
F0B7 Accompanied by suitable safety measures, e.g. protective devices, markings and warnings
The new Machinery Directive (effective from 29.12.09) has been introduced with the aim of reducing the number of accidents relating to machinery use by setting much stricter safety standards.
There are also additional recommendations from the FEM – the European Materials Handling Federation – under their Periodic Inspection of Lifting Tables and Dock Levellers guidelines (see www.fem-eur.com for more information).
However, making sure your loading bay area is safe is not just about meeting the correct regulations. It shows that as a responsible employer, you take health and safety issues seriously and are concerned about the well-being of your employees.
If you fail to meet the appropriate regulations and do not service and maintain your load handling equipment properly, it can result in a fine and, if an employee is injured in an accident due to equipment not being maintained properly, it might also mean you could be faced with an expensive personal injury claim, as well as possibly invalidating any manufacturer warranties. Badly maintained equipment can also lead to expensive downtime with vital work and productivity being badly disrupted.
Buying equipment from a reputable supplier and implementing a regular inspection and maintenance schedule as part of a pre-planned service contract is an extremely cost-effective way of avoiding such problems, whilst also extending machinery working life.
It’s crucial that all your loading bay equipment bears the CE mark. This is the manufacturer’s confirmation that that it meets all the essential health and safety requirements of the Machinery Directive.
For example, Thorworld is BSI registered with CE mark certification, it has been ISO 9002 accredited since 1992 and was one of the first in the industry to achieve the very latest international quality management standard. As a result, as well as bearing the CE mark, all of our equipment comes with a 12 month warranty.
To meet the PUWER and LOLER requirements, checks have to be carried out by a ‘competent person’. Thorworld service and maintenance contracts are available for all relevant equipment provided by us (such as mobile container loading ramps, electro-hydraulic dock levellers, mobile lifting platforms and scissor lifts); this delivers compliance with all the relevant regulations and also ensures the correct operation of the equipment so as to maintain the efficiency of your business operations.
As part of a Thorworld pre-planned service and maintenance agreement, our team of dedicated service engineers will inspect and maintain all of the equipment we supply and, additionally, can also advise you about (and undertake) any essential repairs. All our service and installation staff are suitably qualified; most are members of the Construction Skill Certification Scheme (CSCS), holders of the Client/Contractor National Safety Group Safety Passport (CCNSG) and are highly experienced. The company is also SAFEcontractor accredited.
Under the terms of our service contract we carry out regular annual inspections – although some customers prefer a six month check; it all depends on the type of equipment and level of use. Where required, on-site staff training can also be carried out, with competency certificates issued as appropriate.
The message I want to give is a clear one. Spending a relatively small amount each year on a pre-planned service and maintenance agreement is a valuable long-term investment, just like taking out an extended service contract on a car after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. It will save money, increase personnel safety, ensure you keep within the law and, at the same time, extend the working life of your equipment by keeping it in a tip-top safe and efficient working condition – providing extra peace of mind for all concerned.
Thorworld is firmly established as a market-leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of loading/unloading equipment, together with an extensive range of accessories and safety aids.
The company provides a one-stop single source for the UK’s widest range of high quality loading bay and materials handling products, safety aids and accessories, including dock shelters & seals, dock levellers, modular loading docks, dock plates & boards, dock & vehicle bumpers, wheel chocks, vehicle restraints, traffic lights, wheel guides, alignment curbs and mobile yardramps (available for purchase or rental, on a sale or return basis, through its RentARamp division), together with the Truckloada mobile yardlift and the Dockloada scissor lift platform.