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2020 / 2021 Edition

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HSE safety notice on use of wheel loaders

HSE safety notice

Nine pedestrian fatalities in four years prompt Health and Safety Executive to issue safety notice

THE Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety notice on the use of wheel loaders, particularly in the waste and recycling sector. The notice follows nine fatal vehicle-pedestrian collisions in the past four years, six of which occurred in waste and recycling operations, with the remainder involving the movement of wood chip.

The HSE has identified issues of poor visibility caused by the bucket and load, the engine at the rear, and the cab pillars, all of which can significantly reduce the driver’s ability to see pedestrians and, to a lesser extent, other vehicles. Moreover, the use of larger-capacity buckets, which has become common practice where low-density material is being moved, makes forward visibility significantly worse.

Regulation 4 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires machinery to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used. This also applies if the equipment is adapted, for example by fitting a larger bucket.

Manufacturers and other specialist suppliers have attempted to address the problem by adding ‘visibility slots’ or mesh at the top of buckets, but the HSE says evidence from investigations suggests these are ineffective when the bucket is in the carry position or obscured by the load. It adds that whilst camera systems have been under development for some time, their effectiveness remains unproven.

The head of the HSE’s Waste and Recycling team, HM Principal Inspector of Health and Safety Tim Small, commented: ‘Poorly planned use of wheeled loading shovels can have fatal consequences. This safety notice reminds duty holders who use these machines of the need to fully assess and actively manage the risk of vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

‘Currently, the only effective control measure is strict segregation of vehicles and pedestrians. If you cannot ensure that segregation, you should not use larger-capacity buckets or wheel loaders but employ alternative work methods such as using different machinery and/or site-management arrangements.

‘Before using wheel loaders – or making changes to them – you should review your workplace transport risk assessments to ensure they will be safe to use in your environment and in the way you intend to use them. By implementing appropriate risk controls, needless pedestrian deaths could be avoided.’

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