Health and Safey Executive Safety Alert - Telehandlers
HSE's Agriculture sector are asking all Lantra Instructors who deliver telescopic lift truck training to ensure their learners are made aware of the following safety information:
1. Using a telescopic materials handler (telehandler) fitted with a grain bucket to drive in fence posts may be widespread practice in farming. However, it is inherently dangerous, and the risks created by this unsafe practice have been highlighted once again following a fatal accident on a farm in the summer of 2013.
2. Since 2007 there have been at least six reported incidents involving this unsafe practice. Four of these incidents have resulted in a fatality. Given the level of under-reporting in the industry, it is highly likely that there have been many more accidents and near misses that have not been reported.
3. The people killed or injured in these incidents have typically been holding the fence post in close proximity to the machine whilst the bucket was lowered onto the post by the telehandler.
4. Using a telehandler to drive in fence posts is dangerous as the person holding the fence post is at risk of serious injury. Risks include:
• being struck or run over by the telehandler.
• being struck by the bucket if either the machine or boom/bucket move unexpectedly,
• being crushed or trapped by the bucket if it becomes detached from the machine, or if the fence post breaks.
5. The bucket is particularly likely to become detached in these circumstances, because the action of pushing down on the fence post will tend to lift the bucket out of the attachment mechanism.
6. Typically, buckets (and other attachments) are locked in place by hydraulic locking pins that form part of the attachment mechanism. The locking pins are operated by a control in the machine's cab. In three of the reported incidents it is thought likely that this control had been inadvertently operated at some point, causing the bucket to become detached when it was pressed down on the fence post.
7. The controls for the locking pins are often shared with the auxiliary service (or third service) that provides a supply to hydraulically operated attachments (e.g. a bale grab). Operation can be switched between the locking pins and the auxiliary service by a manual valve; when switched to the auxiliary service the locking pins are unable to move. Telehandlers are usually also provided with a separate switch in the cab that electrically disables the control for the locking pins and auxiliary service. Using either, or both, of these devices should prevent the locking pins from being inadvertently released.
8. It is essential that buckets and other attachments are securely held on the machine, irrespective of the work being undertaken. However, telehandlers are not suitable for driving fence posts or similar objects and their use in this way is dangerous and does not comply with legal requirements. Machinery and attachments should only be used for the purpose for which they are designed and within the limits specified by the manufacturer. Purpose designed post-driving equipment is widely available and this equipment should be used where mechanical assistance is required.
9. To reduce the risk of injury, telehandler operators should always follow safe working practices when operating the machine and in particular:
• understand the function and operation of all the controls
• know the correct procedures to secure and release buckets and other attachments
• understand and follow the information provided in the operators manual
• be aware of tasks for which the machine and attachments are suitable
• be properly trained in accordance with the HSE Approved Code of practice L117 Rider operated lift trucks - operator training and safe use
Key message: Don't use the bucket on a telescopic materials handler to drive-in fence posts. It is dangerous and illegal.