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Oct 29, 2014

New event addresses ground care injury issues!

Following a number of high profile court cases as a result of ground care machinery overturning resulting in operator injury and fatality, on October 22nd BALI and NCF held the inaugural 'Coping with Slopes' event, hosted by Severn Trent Water, at their Warwickshire Draycote Water facility.

Slopemover overturn eventThe oversubscribed event was a health and safety led day, investigating the risks and different methods involved in vegetated embankment management. Throughout the day twelve companies demonstrated their slope maintenance products to an audience of over 150 attendees comprised of Local Authorities,including personnelfrom Birmingham and Islington councils and contractors.

On behalf of the Health & Safety Executive,speaker Frances Hirst delivered an informative paper on the need for all involved in Ground care maintenance to raise the profile of operative health & safety. She said “there have been five operative fatalities which is five too many, two of which have been in the last year. In addition there are currently two major incidents a week and every year there are about 3000 reportable injuries involving tractors and machinery. Tractor and machine accidents are frequently associated with lack of suitable and sufficient operator training. Such training is an essential first step in reducingdamage and injury.There are three levels of training and assessment provision; installation and familiarisation,integrated training and assessment and separate training and assessment. Safe operation of any tractor or machinery requires proper training. It is quite wrong to assume that because employees hold a licence to drive, say, a motor vehicle on the public roads, they also have the skills necessary to operate a tractor or wheeled vehicle.

On completion of training, the trainee should be able to state the risks associated with tractor and machine operations and the causes of tractor and machine accidents, plus state the actions to be taken in an emergency while in control of a tractor or machine. For example, action to be taken in the event of tip over or ingress of an object into the cutting mechanism. Instruction should also be given relating to factors which affect machine stability, including turning, especially related to speed and sharpness of turn, centres of gravity and speed and smoothness of operation. Also use of safety devices including slope level indicators”

One of the exhibitors at the Draycote Water event, Simon Richard, UK agent for the Reform Bank Tractor & Shibaura slope mower ranges,said, “In my opinion if a safety issue is identified the worst response is to do nothing to address it.Health and safety regulations and PUWER (The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations), mean employers have a legal responsibility to ensure any equipment provided is safe and fit for purpose. In my experience national contractors are very good at reacting to slope problems as their clients demand it but local authorities are not so good. It could be that the contractor is personally liable for compensation as a result of any legal action while, where our local authorities are concerned, it is the tax payer who picks up the bill. I do feel that to a large extent the machine operative is being left to their own devices. If operator health and safety solutions are available but are ignored, health and safety legislation will need to be more rigorous to ensure the operator is protected and future accident levels reduced.

We were kept busy all day at Draycote Water fielding questions on the benefits of the 28hp Shibaura SG280 slope mower and 36hp Shibaura CM374 compact tractor, rated to 30 and 20 degrees respectively. We also demonstrated the 59hp Hydrostatic drive Metrac H5X Bank tractor, safe at up to 45 degrees. In addition to addressing operator health and safety issues these machines also offer contractor and local authority's year round functionality. Certain criteria govern the choice and suitability of any equipment. Firstly, an understanding of the main causes of accidents on slopes. This can be a machine traversing a slope in excess of its safest working angle, causing it to tip over or tipping over backwards as a result of over-loading, or driving up a slope beyond the capability of the particular machine being used. You should know the limitations of equipment and the manufactures recommendations for safe working angles. If the terrain exceeds the recommended angle the machine should not be used. A simple solution is to fit a Tiltmaster inclinometer to find out the angle of any slope.

You should also have an understanding of the effects on stability and traction caused by varying ground conditions e.g. long wet grass or short grass with clippings on the surface. Soft, hard or friable and loose surfaces, dips and rabbit holes etc., will all influence machinery performance and behaviour. A risk assessment should be undertaken for each specific work task and machinery checked to ensure it is maintained and used to the manufacturer’s specification. This would include where and how particular equipment is to be used, what for, who by, (skilled employees, trainees etc.); what risks to health and safety might result and a comparing of how well health and safety issues are catered for by different manufacturers. This can confirm which particular machine may be suitable, particularly ifbuying a standard 'off the shelf' piece of equipment. Insurers should also be consulted to ensure that, dependant on the risk assessment outcome, any policy remains valid. A range of advice and guidance is also available at www.slopemower.co.uk”

BALI- NCF say they are looking forward to arranging the next ‘Coping with Slopes’ event soon. To be added to the growing shortlist for the next event interested parties can contact emily.feeney@bali.org.uk.