The Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulator has reported that in August 2020, a man suffered serious injuries after falling from an earth moving machine that he was apparently conducting maintenance on.
The work safety regulator said that early investigations indicate the man fell while exiting the machine and investigations are continuing.
The incident is not the first of its kind in industry with several maintenance personnel being injured while conducting maintenance areas where no safety rail or fall protection equipment existed on machines.
Preventing fall incidents from earth moving plant
The Safety regulator said that the operation of powered mobile plant which includes but is not limited to earth moving machinery (e.g. graders, scrapers, bulldozers and excavators) at workplaces, exposes people to a range of health and safety risks.
- plant operators and service personnel falling from earthmoving equipment during onsite inspection, maintenance or repairs. (Source – Worksafe Victoria)
- the plant colliding or contacting people or objects such as other vehicles;
- the plant contacting energised powerlines;
- the plant overturning;
- objects falling on the operator
- the operator being ejected from the plant; and
- a range of other conditions
The Regulator has drawn industry attention to other hazards of personnel working around plant. It said in a statement today “People required to operate or work around powered mobile plant may also be exposed to excessive noise and vibration, hazardous fumes, and musculoskeletal hazards (e.g. access to plant, operator controls)”
Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers all have health and safety duties to provide information about plant to enable other duty holders to fulfill the responsibilities they have in managing the risks associated with plant, including access.
This information must be given to each person to whom the plant (or its design) is provided.
In addition, the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risk of falls associated with powered mobile plant when carrying out maintenance, inspection or repair work.
So what’s this mean for me as a maintainer of plant and equipment?
Ultimately its important to ensure that you understand all the risks that you might be exposed to when conducting earth mover maintenance or maintaining related plant and equipment.
There will be many risks to be concerned with but we would recommend that, at the outset, you sit down and try to identify what could go wrong in the maintenance activity. This could mean from simple speck of dust in the eye to the failure of a jacking component that could result in a fatality.
Ignorance of the risks is not an excuse when it comes to workplace accidents. Safety regulators work in a similar way to police services. If you’re caught speeding…it’s seldom a defense to say to the police officer “I didn’t see the speed sign.”
You or the person performing maintenance for you cant simply say that the condition wasn’t foreseeable. There’s is a legal argument around that but something so complex we cant cover in this post.
The bottom line is that if a situation was foreseeable, then it’s reasonable for you to implement some control measures that are proportional to the element of risk.
How can I stop someone falling from earth moving equipment?
There are a number of options to control fall risks. Typically many manufacturers now produce earth moving equipment with guardrail mounting points as standard and provide guardrails as an optional extra.
There are also several manufacturers that produce after-market guardrails that can be fitted to existing earth moving plant. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to use an access platform or even scaffolding if the risk can’t be controlled any other way.
At other times it may be appropriate to secure a fall protection point to the equipment and attach personnel with a fall arrestor and safety harness.
You might like to read Understanding your Work Health & Safety Obligations
If you’d like some help with you plant risk assessment or earth mover maintenance risk assessment, why not call Safetysure Safety Consultants for a no obligation chat on 1300 087 888 or chat with one of our team below.