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Top 10 tips for workshop safety

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show there have been over 7000 injuries and 33 deaths in the motor vehicle repair (MVR) industry over the last five years, prompting the UK’s leading provider of heavy duty vehicle lifts to launch a new safety campaign.

SOMERSTOTALKARE has long been at the forefront of efforts to reduce the number of accidents in commercial vehicle workshops and its acclaimed cable free lifts have greatly reduced the risk of trips – a major cause of injury in a busy workshop or garage.

Now the West Midlands based company has published a new set of safety guidelines for firms operating column lifts.

Mick Gilliam, Technical Director explained: "Although the number of accidents in workshops has declined over the past few decades, there are still many hazards to be aware of and businesses cannot afford to be complacent.

"Furthermore, increasing legislation has put even more emphasis on safety in the workplace and so our Top Ten Tips guide should act as a timely reminder of the safest way to operate mobile column lifts."

The SOMERSTOTALKARE top ten safety tips are as follows:

1) Only allow trained operators to use mobile column lifts.

As with all heavy lifting equipment, use by untrained personnel could result in damage to vehicles, or worse, serious injury. In addition, ensure that lifts are only used for the purpose they are designed for.

2) Always isolate the power when the lifts are not being raised or lowered.

This removes the risk of uncontrolled operation if damage occurs to the lifts or cables, and also prevents another operator from moving the lifts while someone is underneath the vehicle.

3) Don’t start the engine while a vehicle is on column lifts.

There is a high risk that, if the drive gear is engaged, starting the engine could cause the vehicle to fall from the supports. There is also a risk to the operator from moving parts and exhaust emissions.

4) Keep the workshop floor free of tripping hazards, such as cables.

Position all cables outside the working areas or cover with a cable marking sleeve. Cable-free and battery-operated mobile lifts are also available to avoid the problem altogether.

5) Position vehicles on the lifts with the drive gear in neutral, the brakes fully off, and the air system fully charged.

This allows the vehicle being lifted to be centralised on the lift’s carriage, and allows the wheels to rotate freely around the hub to remove any side loads being exerted on the lifts by the vehicle’s suspension.

6) Use adjustable support stands where appropriate.

The use of support stands will depend on the risks of the specific job you’re carrying out. Adjustable stands can be repositioned underneath the vehicle whilst it’s raised, whereas fixed pin support stands can only be positioned by further operation of the lifts themselves.

7) Consider the load distribution and axle loads when lifting multi-axle vehicles.

Mobile lifts do not spread the load as evenly as fixed post lifts, so it’s important to ensure that no axle is overloaded and that the safe working capacity is not exceeded.

8) Stay abreast of all the relevant laws and standards.

The most important statutory provisions to bear in mind are: the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974; the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (known as LOLER); and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). You should also be aware of the relevant British Standard (BS 7980:2003), a code of practice for the installation, maintenance, examination and safe use of vehicle lifts.

9) Perform re-load testing on lifts where load-bearing parts have been replaced.

Re-load testing should also be carried out if the competent LOLER examiner deems a load necessary as part of his or her inspection regime.

10) Ensure those conducting LOLER thorough examinations are impartial and independent.

For thorough examinations, a competent person with sufficient technical and practical knowledge of vehicle lifts is required – but they must also be objective and independent. It should not, therefore, be the same person who conducts routine maintenance, since they would then be responsible for assessing their own work.

Mick continued: "If employees follow these simple rules, they can greatly reduce the risk of accidents, which can prove costly in terms of damage to expensive vehicles and equipment and, more importantly the lives of those working in the workshop.

"It’s also vitally important that the equipment itself is well maintained, regardless of the make or model of equipment, and we recommend firms sign up to a regular service plan with their lift provider," he added.

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