29 Mobile Plant
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Core Body of Knowledge for the Generalist OHS Professional
Hazards: Mobile Plant
Mobile plant is used in many Australian workplaces. The use of mobile plant has inherently high risk and every year is associated with a significant number of workplace fatalities and injuries. This chapter describes types of mobile plant commonly used in workplaces, the advantages and disadvantages of its use and the associated risk factors. An overview of the current legislative approach to regulating mobile plant is provided together with a review of the strategies for controlling hazards associated with mobile plant. A case study demonstrates the role of the generalist Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professional in managing mobile-plant-related safety.
mobile plant, hazard, risk, injury, legislation, control
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Synopsis of the OHS Body Of Knowledge 6
Conceptual structure 6
Accessing and using the OHS Body of Knowledge for generalist OHS professionals 7
1 Introduction 1
2 Historical context 1
3 Extent of the problem 2
4 Understanding mobile plant 3
4.1 Types of mobile plant 3
4.2 Advantages and disadvantages of using mobile plant 4
4.3 Risk factors and injuries associated with use of mobile plant 5
4.4 Risk assessment 7
5 Legislation and standards 8
6 Control of hazards associated with use of mobile plant 9
6.1 Elimination 9
6.2 Substitution 10
6.3 Engineering controls 10
6.4 Administrative controls 10
6.5 Personal protective equipment 12
7 Implications for OHS practice 13
8 Summary 14
Key authors and thinkers 15
Appendix 1: Australian Standards applicable to mobile plant 16
Mobile plant of varying capacity is used in most industries in Australia and around the world. The Australian model Work Health and Safety Act (Safe Work Australia, 2011) defines ?plant? as:
(a) any machinery, equipment, appliance, container, implement and tool; and
(b) any component of any of those things; and
(c) anything fitted or connected to any of those things (WHSA s 4).
The draft model Work Health and Safety Regulations (Safe Work Australia, 2010a) define ?powered mobile plant? as:
plant that is provided with some form of self-propulsion that is ordinarily under the direct control of
an operator (WHSR 1.1).
Types of powered mobile plant that come under this definition include:
- Plant designed to lift or move people or materials, e.g. forklifts, lift trucks, industrial reach trucks, elevating work platforms, mobile cranes, dumpers, sweepers, concrete-placing units, pile drivers
- Earth-moving machinery, e.g. bulldozers, excavators, front-end loaders, backhoes, ditch diggers, scrapers, graders, draglines, bobcats, pile drivers, skid-steer loaders
After brief consideration of the historical context of mobile-plant safety and the extent of the problem, this chapter reviews types of mobile plant, advantages and disadvantages of its use in the workplace and potential risk factors. An overview of the legislative approach provides a basis for a discussion of control measures. The chapter concludes with a case study that demonstrates the role of the generalist Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professional in managing mobile-plant safety.
2 Historical context
The mechanical principles of cranes have been applied to lifting items since the times of the early Greeks and Romans. The middle nineteenth century through the early twentieth century saw the developments that led to today's modern forklifts with battery powered platform trucks used for moving luggage on trains in the US; their use expanded and the development of different types of handling equipment in the UK and the US in response to labor shortages caused by the World War I. World War II also spurred the use of forklift trucks with more efficient methods for storing products in warehouses requiring more maneuverable forklift trucks that could reach greater heights. The 1970s and 80s saw the development of elevating work platforms and scissor lifts.
Historically, due to the associated high risk, plant (including mobile plant) safety has been highly regulated in all Australian jurisdictions under the principal health and safety Acts and regulations. Most Australian jurisdictions developed detailed codes, guidance material and industry standards to compliment the regulations, and address particular types of plant and plant-related activities in specific industries. A National Standard for Plant (NOHSC, 1994) was developed and incorporated to varying degrees into legislation in all jurisdictions. The practical nature of the plant-safety-management guidance material developed in the jurisdictions generally has been well received by Australian industries.
3 Extent of the problem
Mobile plant is a major cause of workplace incidents in Australia and around the world. The essential characteristics of mobile plant ? its mobility in combination with the level of operator skill and experience, the particulars of the workplace environment, the presence of people in the workplace, design and manufacture limitations and maintenance requirements ? result in inherently high risk.
Australian workers? compensation claim data (Safework Australia) indicate that although serious mobile-plant-related workers? compensation claims resulting in a fatality, permanent incapacity or temporary incapacity with an absence from work of one working week or more have steadily decreased since 1997?98, mobile plant still represents a serious risk to the health and safety of Australian workers
Table 1(Table 1).
Table 1: Claims related to operation of mobile plant 1997?98 to 2006?07 (Safe Work Australia, 2006?07)
In the year 2006?071 there were 4275 claims (3.2% of all claims) associated with use of mobile plant; of these, nearly 50% involved sprains and strains, 17% involved contusions or open wounds, and 13% involved fractures, dislocations or amputations. A total of 70% of the claims involved two or more weeks? absence from work. Seven people died during 2006?07 as a result of work-related use of mobile plant (Safe Work Australia, 2006-7).
The industries of construction and manufacturing together accounted for 32% of claims related to mobile plant; agriculture, forestry and fishing; mining; retail trade; transport and storage; property and business services; and health and community services each accounted for 7?8% of claims related to use of mobile plant (Safe Work Australia, 2006-7).
4 Understanding mobile plant
While generalist OHS professionals are not expected to be experts on health and safety issues associated with mobile plant, they should be aware of the types of mobile plant that might be used in the workplace, and the advantages, disadvantages and risk factors associated with its use.
4.1 Types of mobile plant
As noted in section 1, mobile plant includes plant designed to lift or move people or materials, earth-moving machinery and tractors. Table 2provides examples of types of mobile plant used in specific industries.
Table 2: Types of mobile plant commonly used by industry
|Industry||Mobile Plant Commonly Used|
|Manufacturing||Forklifts, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms, sweepers, lift trucks, industrial reach trucks|
|Mining||Excavators, bulldozers, front-end loaders, mobile cranes, backhoes, pile drivers, scrapers, skid-steer loaders, power shovels, draglines, rollers, concrete-placing units|
|Construction||Forklifts, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms, excavators, front-end loaders, backhoes, ditch diggers, sweepers, dumpers, pile drivers, hole borers, scrapers, skid-steer loaders, rollers, concrete-placing units|
|Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing||Tractors, graders, excavators, backhoes, scrapers, forklifts, telehandlers, timberjack delimbers, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms, front-end loaders|
|Transport and Storage||Forklifts, telehandlers, elevating work platforms, mobile cranes, container-handling carriers|
|Communications||Forklifts, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms, excavators, backhoes, pile drivers, hole borers, concrete-placing units|
|Government Administration and Defence||Forklifts, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms, excavators, front-end loaders|
|Retail and Wholesale Trade||Forklifts, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms|
|Electricity, Gas and Water Supply||Forklifts, concrete-placing units, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms, excavators, front-end loaders|
|Health and Community Services||Forklifts, mobile cranes, elevating work platforms|
4.2 Advantages and disadvantages of using mobile plant
There are many reasons for using mobile plant. The fact that the plant is mobile is the fundamentally advantageous characteristic as it enables people, materials and earth to be lifted and moved for various reasons and in various environments where the requirement for mobility cannot be satisfied by static plant. Specific advantages and disadvantages of mobile plant depend on the industry and its requirements, and the type of mobile plant and how it is used. Generally, however, use of mobile plant has the following operational and financial advantages:
- can be used at various locations
- can eliminate or reduce certain risks, such as the requirement for manual-handling activities and working-at-heights activities
- can be used for a wide variety of activities and tasks
- various types are available in various shapes, sizes and capacities to meet the demands of different tasks and environments
- Productivity ? can dramatically increase productivity levels, save time, effort and cost
- Cost effectiveness ? can be hired and used as required, when required; does not necessarily need to be purchased by the business.
The major disadvantage of the use of mobile plant is increased risk associated with its mobility; however, other operational issues to be managed include:
- High maintenance ? requirements are generally quite specific and can result in down time
- Increased training and qualification requirements ? operator license and training requirements are specific and costly; operators are required to hold a High Risk Work License
- Increased impact on workplace design ? a workplace redesign may be required to accommodate mobile-plant travel paths
- Increased costs involved in hiring/purchasing, operating and maintaining mobile plant.
4.3 Risk factors and injuries associated with use of mobile plant
The essential characteristic of mobile plant ? its mobility ? presents a fundamental workplace hazard. Common causes of mobile-plant-related incidents can be grouped into four categories:
- Organisation of work
- Lack of, or inadequate, supervision
- Failure to communicate
- Time pressures
- Poor planning and design of the workplace, the task or the plant
- Poor selection of plant
- Lack of, or inadequate, maintenance
- Lack of, or inadequate or faulty, control measures
- Manufacturing faults
- Design faults
- Environmental factors such as terrain
- Lack of, or inadequate, procedures or failure to adhere to procedures
- Over-use or inappropriate use
- Maintenance or operation by unauthorised persons
- Lack of, or inadequate, training in plant use, operation or maintenance
- Lack of, or inadequate, knowledge of and/or experience with the plant and its operation, maintenance and limitations
- Lapses of concentration by the operator or people in proximity to the plant
- Unauthorised access.
Types of injuries associated with use of mobile plant depend on the type of mobile plant as well as the industry and working environment. Table 3 gives some examples of the mechanism of injuries commonly caused by various types of mobile plant.
Table 3: Types of injuries associated with use of mobile plant
|Mobile Plant||Common Types of Injuries Caused by Use|
|Mobile Crane||Crushing, caught between or entrapment, electrocution, sprains and strains, falls, striking, hearing loss, hitting|
|Forklift||Crushing, caught between or entrapment, electrocution, sprains and strains, striking|
|Tractor||Crushing, caught between or entrapment, sprains and strains, falls, striking, hitting|
|Elevating work platform||Crushing, caught between or entrapment, electrocution, sprains and strains, falls, striking, hearing loss, hitting|
|Excavator||Crushing, caught between or entrapment, electrocution, sprains and strains, falls, striking, hearing loss|
|Bobcat||Crushing, caught between or entrapment, electrocution, sprains and strains, falls, striking, hitting|
4.4 Risk assessment
In general, the risks associated with use of mobile plant and the control measures are known. Accordingly, as discussed in the draft code of practice on managing risk (Safe Work Australia, 2010a), risk assessments may not be the most effective risk-management method for mobile plant. In circumstances where the levels of risk are clearly high (as is often the case with mobile plant) it is recommended that rather than consuming time and energy on risk assessment, the OHS professional and work team should focus directly on risk control. The combined critical characteristics of the type of mobile plant, the working environment and the nature of the activity will determine whether or not, and to what extent, risk assessment is necessary. For example, the pre-job safety assessment for use of a mobile crane should address planning, setting up and operating the crane safely in a specific situation. While this assessment would require specialist knowledge and experience, Figure 1 indicates the minimum requirements where the generalist OHS professional may have a role.
Figure 1: Example of pre-job safety assessment for mobile plant
5 Legislation and standards
Traditionally, the principal health and safety Act in each jurisdiction has placed general duties not only on employers, but on a range of upstream parties (including persons who design, manufacture, import, supply, install and erect plant), whose actions have the potential to impact mobile-plant-related health and safety. The regulation of mobile plant under the national model Work Health and Safety Act (Safe Work Australia, 2011) does not vary dramatically from previous legislation. While persons managing or controlling plant at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant is safe and without risks (WHSA s 21), designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and those commissioning mobile plant all have responsibilities specific to their role to ensure that the mobile-plant-related risks to health and safety are eliminated or minimised. These duties extend to people who install, use or carry out any reasonably foreseeable activity at a workplace in relation to the proper use, decommissioning or dismantling of the plant or are in the vicinity, and whose health and safety may be affected (WHSA s 23). There are also requirements for the designs of specific type of mobile plant to be registered (WHSR 5.2).
The obligations of persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) involving the management or control of mobile plant are described in the model Work Health and Safety Regulations (Safe Work Australia, 2010b). These obligations include eliminating as far is reasonably practicable the risk of:
(a) the plant overturning; or
(b) things falling on the operator of the plant; or
(c) the operator being ejected from the plant; or
(d) the plant colliding with any person or thing (WHSR 5.1).
Also, the PCBU must ensure that ?no person other than the operator rides on powered mobile plant unless the person is provided with a level of protection that is equivalent to that provided to the operator? and that suitable warning devices are fitted (WHSR 5.1).
In addition, most jurisdictions have developed industry standards and codes that do not have a legal status but allow duty holders to follow the standard or alternative action that achieves equivalent or better level of management. The National Standard for Plant (NOHSC, 1994), intended to be the basis for a uniform regime of OHS regulation for plant, was variously adopted under mandatory Commonwealth, state and territory regulations as well as codes of practice. Also, many Australian Standards address various types of mobile plant and their safe design, operation, use and maintenance (Appendix 1).
6 Control of hazards associated with use of mobile plant
A range of strategies can reduce the risk associated with use of mobile plant; the ideal combination of strategies depends on the type of plant, the work environment, the work task, and the skills and knowledge of the operators and those working in the area. As with other hazards, the hierarchy of control provides a useful framework for considering controls.
The preferred control option is to eliminate risks during the planning stages of a mobile-plant design, workplace design or work activity; this can save time and money as well as eliminate risks to health and safety. Eliminating the hazard by designing it out may be as simple as designing a work environment so that pedestrians are removed from the working area of the mobile plant and are not exposed to risk associated with its operation. Another example of eliminating risks through planning and design is using alternative power sources to eliminate fumes and toxic emissions.
Selecting the right plant for the task is critical to the safe use of mobile plant in a workplace; poor or incorrect selection is a major contributing factor to mobile-plant risks. Substituting mobile plant with safer types (e.g. using a crane instead of a forklift to lift certain types of loads) is an effective method of reducing risk levels, as is replacing old plant with newer models that have improved design characteristics (e.g. better visibility, noise insulation, built-in guards, less emissions). Also, substitution may be based on a requirement to use a safer power supply (e.g. changing from diesel to electric for an indoor environment).
6.3 Engineering controls
Engineering controls ? the primary mode of ensuring that mobile-plant risks are reduced and controlled ? are essential to mobile-plant safety. Examples include noise insulation, guarding, enclosures, material from which the plant is constructed, and power-supply variations (e.g. diesel, gas, electricity). Safe design of mobile plant can include engineering controls built into the plant?s design or added at a later stage. Built-in engineering controls ? such as emergency cut-offs, alarms and self-regulating controls ? can warn the operator of a fault or if the plant is being used beyond its capacity (e.g. mobile cranes, earth-moving machinery, elevating work platforms). Engineering controls are not limited to the mobile plant; they can be applied to the working environment to control mobile-plant risks (e.g. extraction systems, isolation systems, warning systems, alarm systems and traffic management).
6.4 Administrative controls
While the preference is for elimination, substitution or engineering controls, administrative controls such as Safe Work Method Statements, training and licensing of operators and those who work near the mobile plant, and procedures such as traffic management to control the work environment, all make an important contribution to mobile-plant safety.
6.4.1 Safe Work Method Statements
A requirement for the preparation of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMSs) for all high-risk construction activities is included in the national model WHS regulations (WHSR 6.3). These statements combine a risk assessment with a safe-work procedure to identify, assess and control risks associated with the specific mobile plant, work activity and working environment. The simple, efficient and task-specific nature of an SWMS accommodates the high-risk, dynamic and often complicated nature of mobile plant use in various working environments and facilitates the effective management of health and safety risks associated with all such works.
6.4.2 Work procedures
Effective work procedures are a fundamental aspect of mobile-plant safety and are required for many aspects of mobile-plant operation. Procedures must be developed to address, as a minimum:
- Safe operation of the particular types of mobile plant
- Wearing of seat belts and use of safety devices
- Safe and proper service, maintenance and inspection of the mobile plant
- Traffic management for mobile plant and pedestrians
- Safe shut down, fuelling, parking and isolation procedures.
Requirements for the development of procedures will vary depending on the type of plant and its use. Effective implementation of procedures requires all affected parties to be trained in those procedural requirements. Procedures should be reviewed regularly and improvements made as necessary, particularly when changes have been made to the working environment, activities, mobile plant or processes.
6.4.3 Training and licensing of operators
Traditionally, training and license requirements for mobile-plant operators have been highly regulated in OHS legislation. Operators of a range of mobile plant are required to hold a High Risk Work License (WHSR schedule 3) and there are specific requirements for application, issuing and maintenance of the licenses (WHSR 4.5). While training to hold such licenses is specified by legislation (WHSR schedule 5) it should not be limited to the regulated requirements. After obtaining a High Risk Work License to operate a particular type of mobile plant, it is essential for an operator to be trained in the specifics of the particular workplace and work environment, and in operation of the mobile plant in that environment. Also, workplace training should address the particular task and SWMS for that task. The level of detail required for this task-related training will vary depending on the type of plant being used and the nature of the task. Refresher training covering procedures and plant operation should also occur.
6.4.4 Training for workers working in the vicinity of mobile plant
It is essential that those working in the vicinity of mobile-plant operation are provided with appropriate training and instruction. Workplace induction should include training on all relevant matters associated with their position and the operation of the mobile plant in that particular work environment. Also, they must understand the task-related (SWMS) procedures, and the type of risks presented to them as well the necessary protective control measures. The same principle applies to visitors to the workplace. Anyone entering the workplace where mobile plant is in operation must be trained on the risks associated with the operation of that plant and the requirements for safety controls to prevent injury or incident.
6.4.5 Servicing, maintenance and inspection
Whether undertaken by external specialists or in-house, it is imperative that mobile-plant service, maintenance and inspection schedules comply with manufacturers? requirements, current legislation and Australian Standards. Records must be kept of all servicing, maintenance and inspection for the life of the plant. Procedures must be developed to address and manage the servicing, maintenance and inspection of all mobile plant, and all service personnel (external or in-house) must be trained in these procedures and suitably qualified to undertake such work; records of training and qualifications must be maintained.
6.4.6 Procedures for controlling the environment in which mobile plant is operated
Traffic management is a crucial element of effective mobile-plant safety. Designing and implementing safe, efficient and operator-centred traffic-management systems for mobile equipment, other vehicles and pedestrians is of key importance in almost all industrial domains (Horberry, 2011). To ensure the effectiveness of traffic-management systems in reducing risks associated with mobile plant, it is essential that existing standards and guidelines are referred to in conjunction with workplace-specific requirements, environmental conditions, activities and mobile plant in use.
6.5 Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment does not provide protection from the primary hazard of the mobile plant (i.e. that it is moving), however mobile-plant operators and possibly those working in the vicinity will be exposed to a range of other related hazards. Consequently, the range of personal protective equipment that may be required includes hearing protection, hand protection, eye protection, foot protection, skin protection, suitable attire (pants, tops, etc.), high-visibility clothing, hair net and head protection.
7 Implications for OHS practice
While many aspects of mobile-plant safety require specialist expertise (e.g. relating to design, manufacture, service, inspection, maintenance, and technical details as well as operation), the generalist OHS professional is critical to the effective control of mobile-plant risks in a workplace. Consequently, it is imperative for OHS professionals to be cognisant of those aspects of mobile-plant-safety management that require specialist expertise and to apply substantial knowledge of the working environment where the mobile plant is operating and a system approach to managing OHS. The level of involvement of the OHS professional in managing safety of mobile plant will depend on the industry type and business size. The case study below illustrates how the OHS professional might work with specialist advisors and those in the workplace to effectively control mobile-plant risks.
Most industries rely on the use of mobile plant. Unsurprisingly, given its high-risk nature, the use of mobile plant is highly regulated. Regardless of industry type or organisational size, generalist OHS professionals require a basic understanding of the issues associated with mobile plant use as well as the regulatory structure and accepted framework for the management of mobile-plant safety in Australian workplaces. Accordingly, this chapter has outlined types of mobile plant along with the advantages, disadvantages, risk factors and legislation associated with its use. Risk-assessment and risk-control measures were discussed, and implications for OHS practice were considered in the context of a case example.
Key authors and thinkers
Professor Tore Larsson, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (previously Monash
University Accident Research Centre)
Associate Professor Tim Horberry, Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre, University of
Larsson, T. J., Horberry, T., Brennan, T., Lambert, J., & Johnston, I. (2003). A guidebook of industrial traffic management and forklift safety. Monash University Accident Research Centre, Victoria: WorkSafe Victoria. Retrieved from http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/9f6435004071fa91a81cfee1fb554c40/MUARC+Guidebook.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
Horberry, T. J., Burgess-Limerick, R., & Steiner L. J. (2011). Human factors for the design, operation, and maintenance of mining equipment. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
NOHSC (National Occupational Health and Safety Commission). (1994). National Standard for Plant [NOHSC:1010 (1994). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.]
Safe Work Australia. (2010a). (Draft) Code of Practice How to manage work health and safety risks Canberra Safe Work Australia.
Safe Work Australia. (2010b). [Draft] Model Work Health and Safety Regulations Canberra Safework Australia
Safe Work Australia. (2011). Model Work Health and Safety Bill: Revised draft 23/6/11. Canberra Safe Work Australia
Safework Australia. National Online Statistics Interactive (NOSI) Retrieved 2011, May, 2011, from http://nosi.ascc.gov.au/Default.aspx
Appendix 1: Australian Standards applicable to mobile plant
AS 1418.5-2002 /
Cranes, hoists and winches - Safe use - General requirements
Cranes, hoists and winches - Safe use - Mobile cranes
Elevating work platforms
AS 2550.10-2006 / Amdt 1-2009
Tractors and machinery for agriculture and forestry - Technical means for ensuring safety - General
Tractors and machinery for agriculture and forestry - Technical means for ensuring safety - Forestry winches
Tractors and machinery for agriculture and forestry - Technical means for ensuring safety - Power-driven soil-working equipment
Earth-moving machinery - Safety - Roller compactors - Brake systems
Acoustics - Measurement of airborne noise emitted by earth-moving machinery and agricultural tractors - Stationary test condition - Determination of compliance with limits for exterior noise
Earth-moving machinery - Protective structures ? General
Earth-moving machinery - Off-the-road wheels, rims and tyres - Maintenance and repair - Wheel assemblies and rim assemblies
[http://www.saiglobal.com/online/Script/Details.asp?DocN=AS0733785883AT AS 4457.2-2008
Forklifts / industrial lift trucks
Powered industrial trucks - Fork-lift trucks - Hook-on type fork arms and fork carriers - Mounting dimensions
Earth-moving machinery - Safety - Roller compactors - Brake systems
Powered industrial trucks - Counterbalanced fork-lift trucks - Stability tests
Cranes, hoists and winches - Safe use - Telescopic handlers
Piling - Design and installation
AS 2159-2009 / Amdt 1-2010
Mobile concrete pumps
Cranes (including hoists and winches) ? Concrete placing equipment
AS 1418.15-1994 / Amdt 1-1995
Cranes (including hoists and winches) - Concrete placing equipment
1 This was the most up-to-date complete data available at the time of writing.