30 Jul 2009

Things to consider when using a MEWP

Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) can provide a safe way of working at height. They:
  • Allow the worker to reach the task quickly and easily
  • Have guard rails and toe boards which prevent a person falling
  • Can be used in-doors or out

MEWPs include cherry pickers, scissor lifts and vehicle-mounted booms. Important advice on the selection and management of MEWPs can be found on the following link:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/cis58.pdf

Things to consider

If you are thinking of using a MEWP look at the following questions.

Height

How high is the job from the ground?

Application

Do you have the appropriate MEWP for the job? (If you are not sure, check with the hirer or manufacturer.)

Conditions

What are the ground conditions like - is there a risk of the MEWP becoming unstable or overturning?

Operators

Are the people using the MEWP trained, competent and fit to do so?

Obstructions

Could the MEWP be caught on any protruding features or overhead hazards, e.g. steelwork, tree branches or power lines?

Is there passing traffic, and if so, what do you need to do to prevent collisions?

Restraint

Do you need to use either work restraint (to prevent people climbing out of the MEWP) or a fall arrest system (which will stop a person hitting the ground if they fall out)? Allowing people to climb out of the basket is not normally recommended - do you need to do this as part of the job?

Checks

Has the MEWP been examined, inspected and maintained as required by the manufacturer’s instructions and daily checks carried out?


Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/mewps.htm (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence.)


The latest Good to Go Safety checklist has been designed specifically for MEWPs, allowing operatives to carry out a quick and easy-to-follow inspection of the equipment, prior to use. For more information visit: http://www.goodtogosafety.co.uk/mewp.php

21 Jul 2009

The importance of shift handovers

The shift handover is an important area of focus for accident investigators, and for good reason when it comes to workplace safety.

A research study carried out on behalf of the HSE1 identified a number of major accidents, which highlighted failings in the shift-handover procedures.

The 1988 Piper Alpha explosion and fire is probably the most prominent event where the shift handover is referred to as one of the main contributing factors to the disaster. Here, details about the replacement of a pressure safety valve with a blank flange, and instructions not to use it, failed to be communicated during the shift handover.

In 1991, at a vitrification plant at Windscale, shield doors designed to protect people from the effects of radiation, were left open during a hazardous part of a process. Details concerning a temporary override were not properly logged and carried forward from shift to shift. Post-incident investigation also highlighted an over-reliance on one-way written communication.

More recently, in 2007, failings in the shift-handover procedures were cited in a report from the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board on the BP Texas refinery explosion.2 The report into the incident, which led to 15 deaths and 180 people injured, revealed that limited written information was recorded in the shift log and verbal communication was insufficient.

Procedures and standards

The expectations for an effective shift handover are set out in a report published in 2007 following the work of the Buncefield Standards Task Group.3 It recommends the minimum provision of a procedure or standard that specifies simple and unambiguous steps for effective communications at shift changes.

National occupational standards (NOS) are used as the building blocks for many vocational qualifications, and specific ones have been established for personnel who work shifts in industry, and include safety elements such as a shift handover.

Intended as a competency-based tool, NOS are statements of the skills, knowledge and understanding needed for an individual to carry out a particular job role or function. Individuals are subjected to a workplace assessment, which normally involves observation of a process or procedure, as a means of confirming competent performance. Quality assurance is achieved by seeking accreditation for a vocational qualification by an awarding body, which is itself regulated by a Sector Skills Council (SSC).

Cogent, a SSC for the chemicals and pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, nuclear, petroleum, and polymer industries, has developed a web-based competence self-assessment tool to meet the needs of companies in these fields. It represents a total systems-check, assisting organisations by revealing what they don’t know about their own procedures and systems. The result is a confidential self-examination of organisation-wide competence.

A procedure or policy should be regularly monitored for effectiveness and this may be achieved by reviewing the contents of logs, checking understanding of information, and collating trends and patterns where safety events result in minor or ‘near-miss’ events. Procedures should also be periodically reviewed to ensure that the content is current and accurate, taking account of internal or external experiences. An independent audit or peer review is an effective method of identifying and sharing good practice.

Responsibilities and arrangements
Communication of systems and processes during the shift handover can be further complicated by the fact that one person is unlikely to be available to clarify misunderstandings or correct actions once they have left the workplace at the end of their shift.

It is therefore vital that all personnel involved in the shift-handover process are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities, as outlined below:

  • outgoing personnel are responsible for ensuring the incoming personnel understand the status of the business, process and systems before leaving the workplace;
  • incoming personnel are responsible for ensuring they are in a position to carry out actions and make decisions before they allow the outgoing personnel to leave the workplace;
  • people returning from a long break need a more comprehensive handover; and
  • care is required when an experienced person is handing over to someone with less experience.

A positive safety culture should encourage an effective shift handover where misunderstandings are queried. HSG 48 Reducing error and influencing behaviour provides guidance on human factors in industrial safety and HSG 256 Managing shift work provides advice on arrangements that can ensure effective shift handovers take place.

Arrangements for reviewing the effectiveness of the shift-handover process will ensure good practice is maintained and the systems support changes in knowledge, technology, and the environment.

The following list is presented as good practice when preparing for, and carrying out, a shift handover.4

1. Allow sufficient time for the handover;

2. Conduct the handover face to face;

3. Eliminate distractions;

4. Ensure the person leading the handover
i. gives an overview of the handover content,
ii. makes positive statements about safety issues,
iii. talks through the log items, and
iv. summarises the handover at the end;

5. Ensure feedback takes place to seek clarification and confirmation; and

6. Ensure the person receiving the handover takes notes.


Effective communication
In dynamic industries, there is a disproportionate number of errors and accidents that occur after shift handover.5 Good communication is imperative and a checklist to aid its effectiveness is presented below:

  • identify information that needs to be communicated, and cut out unnecessary information;
  • use aids, such as structured log sheets, display board, computer displays, diagrams and reports;
  • use a combination of written and verbal communication methods to convey the message;
  • encourage two-way discussion;
  • use effective questioning techniques;
  • appreciate that deviations from the norm (routine) can cause a differing interpretation of a situation;
  • invite a witness from the oncoming shift (expert, or experienced in the area of work) to attend the handover where complex situations are being explained;
  • add context and explanation to subjects – do not read out a list; and
  • ensure hand-written information is accurate and legible.


History suggests that important information can be missed in the rush for workers to get home once their shift is finished. In some cases, it would not be unusual for shift workers to leave the workplace before their shift officially finishes if their relief has already arrived. To mitigate the risks of poor communication and instruction at this juncture, many companies pay an allowance for an additional period at the end of the shift to ensure flexibility if the need arises.


Contents of an effective shift handover
A review was carried out in 1994/95 to examine the practice of shift handovers in the oil industry and make recommendations for improvement.6 The findings used interview data, in conjunction with log-book content, to derive a set of mandatory and discretionary categories. The table below presents a modified list of subjects, which may be considered in the development of a local
procedure.

MANDATORY CATEGORIES

DISCRETIONARY CATEGORIES

Staffing levels

Environmental matters

Emergency roles

Severe weather warnings

Safety issues

Technical problems

Maintenance in progress

Welfare issues

Vehicles & equipment out of service

Complaints

Business abnormalities

External events

Security status

Support arrangements

Status of safeguarding systems

Actions taken during shift

Visitors & contractors

Routine duties

Work outstanding

Records

Permits in force

Repairs

Access restrictions

Inspections & Tests

Specific checklists exist for different organisations and can be used to substitute many of the topics in the table above.

References

  1. Health & Safety Executive (1996): Effective shift handover – A literature review, (Offshore Technology Report – OTO 96 003), prepared by The Keil Centre, Edinburgh
  2. US Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board (2007): Investigation report: refinery explosion and fire BP Texas City, Texas, 23 March 2005
  3. Health & Safety Executive (2007): Safety and environmental standards for fuel storage sites, Buncefield Standards Task Group (BSTG), final report
  4. Parke, P and Mishkin, A (2005): Best practices in shift handover communication: Mars exploration-rover surface operations, proceedings of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety Conference, France
  5. Brazier, A (2008): Buncefield, www.andybrazier.co.uk/guides/handover.htm
  6. Lardner, R (1996): Safe communication at shift handover: setting and implementing standards, see www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/comah/standards.pdf


Above report by: Dave Dowling, a fire and rescue manager at URENCO UK Ltd


Although Good to Go Safety does not specifically refer to shift handovers it can certainly be seen as a complimentary and extremely useful tool within its procedure. As highlighted above, many operatives are not willing to wait for their replacement to arrive so they can provide a comprehensive handover and this can lead to significant information being missed. The introduction of a SEMS (safe equipment management system) can certainly help reduce the risks by visually reminding operatives to carry out a pre-use inspection and record the findings. A visual display will then inform any new arrivals to the scene of the equipment status.
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The SEMS should not be relied on as the answer to a shift handover but may be a useful addition to procedures and a useful back-up to any lack of handover.

3 Jul 2009

Dangers of not maintaining plant equipment

The Health and Safety Executive has warned of the danger of not maintaining plant equipment after the death of a telescopic forklift truck driver, who was crushed between the descending arm and side of his vehicle.

The warning follows the prosecution of two companies in relation to the incident at the Davyhulme Waste Water Treatment Works, on 18 September 2003. MB Plastics Ltd and Birse Integrated Solutions Ltd were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on Tuesday 30 June.

The deceased man’s employer, MB Plastics Ltd of Warrington, pleaded guilty to an offence under health and safety legislation. The company was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £24,323.

The principal contractor for the project, Birse Water Ltd, which is now trading as Birse Integrated Solutions Ltd also pleaded guilty. It was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £41,073.

The court heard the vehicle’s off-side cab window normally acted as a guard, but had been damaged during a lifting operation five weeks before the fatality. At the time of the incident, the cab window was entirely missing.

Judge Peter Lakin said, although there were no witnesses to the incident, the most likely explanation is that the deceased man leant out of the cab window and came into contact with the joystick, bringing the arm of the forklift truck down onto him.

MB Plastics Ltd was charged with failing to ensure the safety of employees, under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, while involved in operating and working with, or in the vicinity of, a telescopic forklift truck.

Birse was charged with failing to ensure the safety of people not in its employment, under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The court found that Birse had failed to ensure that MB Plastics Ltd prepared suitable and sufficient risk assessments in relation to its telescopic forklift truck operations. It also found that Birse had failed to adequately monitor MB Plastics Ltd and, as a result, had failed to identify the broken window and ensure it was replaced.

HSE Inspector Warren Pennington said:

"This incident would have been entirely avoidable if the proper health and safety procedures had been followed.

"MB Plastics Ltd did not have a system in place for formal regular inspections of the plant. As a result, the company failed to maintain the cab window which could have saved this man’s life.

"Birse, the principal contractor on the site, also had a duty to supervise its subcontractors properly. The company had a comprehensive management system but it was not implemented and, as a result, something as simple as a missing window was not spotted.

"This incident emphasises how important it is that companies should not only ensure they have the proper procedures in place – but also ensure they are followed. We’re therefore calling on employers to take their responsibilities seriously so that future tragedies can be avoided."

Passing sentence, Judge Lakin said:

"MB had primary responsibility for the welfare of its employees. The harsh reality of this case is that, in relation to this contract, MB completely failed to have any proper regard to their health and safety obligations.

"This directly led to the development of an unsafe and sloppy system of work in relation to the use of telehandlers. As a result MB’s workforce was exposed to completely unnecessary and avoidable risk.

"Birse, as principal contractors on site, failed to implement their own systems and accordingly failed to properly monitor what MB were doing. This lack of monitoring allowed MB’s disregard for health and safety to continue over a number of weeks. In short, Birse failed in their supervisory role".

Notes to editors
  1. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 says:

    "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 says:

    "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

Source: HSE/NW/009MBPlasticsBirse/2009 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence.)

At Good to Go Safety, we believe our Forklift Inspection system would have prevented such a devastating incident. The broken window would have been spotted early and the offending equipment put into quarantine until the window had been mended. The cost of implementing such a system when compared to the fines imposed and, more importantly, the life lost is negligible. This accident could realistically have been avoided for as little as £0.26.
1 Jul 2009

Safety in the Warehouse

Equipment Inspections Dramatically Improve Warehouse Safety

Warehouse safety should be high on every manager’s list of priorities, but in these difficult financial times, are corners being cut to save a few pounds at the cost of saving a life?

The repercussions of an accident in the workplace can be devastating to both the company and individuals involved. Many of these accidents could be easily avoided with a few basic checks, as one of the biggest causes of workplace accidents is employee assumption. It is easy to assume that a forklift or ladder is perfectly safe when it was used yesterday without incident; this scenario is commonplace and is easily slipped into without the introduction of a Safe Equipment Management System (SEMS).

Unfortunately it often takes an accident to open employer’s eyes to the need for routine inspections and safety management routines. The potential for accidents involving equipment in a warehouse is high with dangers including the risk of a racking collapse, forklift truck malfunctions or collisions, falls from height – whether from a ladder or a MEWP or dangers from specialist equipment:

The worst case scenario can result in severe injury or death. The after effects to the victim and their family, combined with legal costs to the company can be catastrophic. Aside from personal injury there is also a high risk of damage to plant, equipment and goods caused by collisions and unstable racking. There is also the subsequent cost of downtime, lost hours and potential need for temporary storage to account for. Legal fees, compensation and insurance fees are all likely to soar whilst the negative effect on company image and employee morale could be just as damaging.


A good SEMS works on many levels. Good to Go Safety has recently launched a quick, easy to understand and very cost effective system which will help employers to:

  • Prevent accidents.
  • Comply with legislation and industry best practice.
  • Inform all employees of the status of equipment – allowing the instant quarantine of faulty items, or providing peace of mind that it is ‘good to go’.
  • Record all inspections with a chronological audit trail.
  • Educate and train employees to carry out routine checks, encouraging them to take responsibility for the safe maintenance of their equipment.
  • Reduce maintenance costs through proactively dealing with minor faults early.

The Good to Go Safety SEMS consists of three key components: A status pod is attached to the relevant piece of equipment and visually informs workers of its current status; a safety check book enables them to carry out a comprehensive inspection; and a tamper evident seal guarantees the validity of the completed checklist. The system provides a duplicate copy of all inspections, retained for future reference. With inspection systems available for forklift trucks, pallet racking, ladders, MEWPs, scaffold towers and more, warehouse safety should be easier than ever to implement and with each inspection costing as little as £0.26 there can be no excuse for cost-cutting on safety in your warehouse. For more information visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk

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