Manual Handling of Tyres Guide Launched
The NTDA Regional Meeting, held at the Brityrex International exhibition on 11 May, played host to the launch of a new Guide to the Manual Handling of Tyres, drawn up by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in consultation with industry bodies and trade associations.
The Guide was launched by Chris Flint, HM Principal Inspector, HSE and one of the Guide’s authors. It is, he said, aimed at employers whose businesses involve the collection or delivery of new or used tyres and is relevant to employers who manufacture, store, distribute, collect, deliver and retail tyres and to retreaders, road haulage companies and bus operators. It is limited to dealing with the risk of musculoskeletal disorders arising from the manual handling of tyres during collection and delivery and does not cover tyre handling during manufacture and retreading.
Why concentrate on manual handling? The answer, said Chris Flint, was simple; 40 per cent of reported accidents in the rubber industry result from manual handling. The HSE strategy was simple – to identify the problem through case studies, prepare guidance, promote it and enforce it. Ergonomists at the Health and Safety Laboratory were involved in the risk assessments and preparation of the advice and guidance.
It was never the intention to eliminate manual handling, said Chris Flint, even if such a thing were practical, just to make it as safe as possible. That said, HSE guidance is that, wherever possible, manual handling should be avoided and that employers should consider using mechanical lifting aids or conveyors.
The next step is to assess the risk involved and to consider how the operations could be made easier. Talk to the workforce and see if they have any ideas – often the best input comes from those who are doing the job day in, day out. Involving your workforce is the key message, said Chris Flint.
Having drawn up an action plan, it is important to tackle those operations that pose the greatest risks first. It is vital too to ensure that workers are fully and correctly trained in recognising harmful manual handling, correct handling techniques and the use of any mechanical aids.
The assessments made in the case studies utilised the MAC tool (INDG 383 Manual Handling Assessment Charts) with the various stages of the operations colour coded, according to risk. This varies from purple (extremely high risk), to red (high risk), amber (moderate risk) and green (low risk). Applying the MAC tool gives each action a numerical score, enabling the employer to prioritise his risk reduction.
The analysis is very detailed. For example, the case study covering the collection of used car tyre casings from retail premises is divided into two parts; unlacing casings in the depot store and lifting casings on to the collection vehicle. These are further subdivided into eight categories; load weight/frequency; hand distance from lower back (i.e. how much reaching away from the body is involved); vertical lift distance; trunk twisting/sideways bending; postural constraints (i.e. are there any space limitations); grip on the load; floor surface and environmental factors (ie is the action taking place inside or outside, is there sufficient light, etc).
In this particular case study, a high risk was perceived for the lifting posture and distance factors, but the overall risk was rated “moderate” as it was of limited, and infrequent, duration. Possible risk reduction measures recommended included a non-powered roller conveyor to avoid carrying casings, provision of a loading bay, minimising the distance between casing store and collection vehicle and controlling stack height so that individuals are not handling tyres above shoulder level.
Something which some may not realise is that, when visiting drivers call at your premises to collect or deliver tyres, the site is designated a “shared workplace”. This means that you have a legal duty to co-operate with the driver’s employers far as necessary to allow the employer to meet their legal obligations for ensuring the driver’s health and safety.
This includes a duty to minimise the risks of injury through manual handling. To put it another way, leaving the driver to load/unload the lorry by himself simply isn’t good enough. The issue of shared workplaces is likely to be one of the major issues raised by the new Guide, suggested NTDA Director Richard Edy. The other main issue is that of cost when implementing risk reduction strategies.
When it comes to enforcement of the Guide, the HSE has a number of inspectors on the ground, looking at what it calls “high risk” sites. Local Authority inspectors take care of shops and “lower risk” sites. There are over 450 Local Authorities in the UK and all are charged with enforcing Health and Safety regulations. Add to these the HSE’s own inspectors and you have what Chris Flint described as “potentially a sizeable number of inspectors out there.”
So what can an inspector who discovers a breach of H&S rules do? The first step is always discussion and dialogue, said Chris Flint, and hopefully the issue can be resolved by mutual consent. Should this not be possible, the inspector can issue an Improvement Notice, which lays down a time scale for the matter to be rectified. This time scale must be a minimum of 21 days and, if the improvement is not forthcoming in the specified time period, the employer can be taken to court and prosecuted.
In cases where the inspector judges that there is an immediate and significant risk, he can order a Prohibition Notice. This has the effect of stopping operations immediately and is used only in the worst cases.
The idea, said Chris Flint, is that the new Guide is exactly that – a guide to give the tyre sector some idea of the importance of reducing injuries caused by manual handling, especially as so many of these injuries can be avoided with the application of a little common sense. The HSE, he told delegates, is not poised to swoop down suddenly on tyre retailers and drag them off to court. Having said that, the HSE does take breaches of its regulations seriously and Chris Flint ended his talk with the comment “There are a lot of people working in conditions that are not acceptable.”