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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters



Safeguard Magazine

Regulator report—Mobile plant vs pedestrians

Far too many workers on foot are struck and killed by mobile plant, vehicles and other equipment in motion. JO-ANN PUGH highlights this common critical risk.

Have you recently considered the risks posed by moving plant, vehicles and equipment in your workplace? We are seeing an increasing level of commitment from businesses to good health and safety performance, but these three areas remain over-represented in the injury and fatality statistics.

Since the start of May, seven families have been grappling with losing a loved one following vehicle, equipment and moving plant incidents. What’s concerning about these incidents is that the key causes are the same as they were five years ago.

While New Zealand is known for pushing the boundaries and being an innovator, health and safety performance around moving plant remains an area of stubborn inaction for some organisations.

In discussions with businesses, we are finding that many have failed to fully consider or address the risks of moving plant, vehicles and equipment in their workplaces despite a spate of incidents. The risks are not new, yet businesses are not treating these as a critical risk and workers continue to pay with their lives.

SAFETY BY DESIGN

The concept of upstream duties was introduced in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to place a health and safety duty on designers and suppliers to encourage them to design inherently safer products.

We are starting to see examples where businesses are “designing in” safety. For example, we know of a company that is redefining the traditional band saw by applying new technology that shuts the machines off as soon as limbs get close to the blade. The result is workers now end up with a graze instead of losing fingers or worse.

The challenge to designers of moving plant, vehicles and equipment is to start thinking about ways to keep people safe around their equipment. Good design can eliminate the risk entirely and removes the need for multiple low-level, less effective controls to be introduced.

WORKPLACES: NO EXCUSES

Suppliers and designers can make their products safer, but businesses must also put these risks in their sights. It’s not good enough for WorkSafe inspectors to continue finding issues such as:

  • • 
    no exclusion of workers from areas where moving vehicles are operating;
  • • 
    a lack of operator training;
  • • 
    vehicles with loads obstructing the vision of the operator;
  • • 
    unstable loads and loads slipping off; and
  • • 
    poor maintenance.

These are basic things that can be put right for very little expense.

WHY DO IT?

No one wants to be responsible for injuring workers, but there are other reasons to take health and safety seriously – it is good for business. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine recently published a study that proposed a model to help the investment community better understand the financial value of health and safety for a workforce.

The study tracked a theoretical $10,000 investment in health, safety and wellbeing over 13 to 15 years and found companies with “strong health, safety, and environmental programmes” outperformed the S&P 500.

REASONABLY PRACTICABLE

We are saying to businesses, carefully assess your risks and then take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or minimise the risks to workers and others.

Taking steps to eliminate, substitute or engineer out the risks is the effective response. For example, using an electric forklift over an older LPG-fuelled machine in a confined space is an example of elimination, as electric vehicles produce no carbon monoxide.

The key is treating moving plant, vehicles and equipment as a critical risk and then working to engineer out the risks entirely. Do this, and I am confident that the injury rates will drop.

Jo-Ann Pugh is Deputy General Manager, Assessments with WorkSafe New Zealand.

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