A fairground company has been prosecuted and fined after an employee was killed as a funfair was being set up at Wellingborough’s Bassett’s Park.
The Twister ride, which was being carried on an HGV, was being manoeuvred into position. The firm had been using a banksman to guide the vehicle into position but he was on the rear passenger side of the vehicle, whilst the body of Mr O’Brien, the employee who died, was found underneath the lorry on the driver’s side.
O’Brien suffered severe crush injuries to the head and upper body and died in hospital. The banksman told an inquest that he and the driver had checked around and underneath the lorry before starting to manoeuvre it. As the vehicle started to reverse, there was a cry and the banksman signalled the vehicle to halt, both with a shout and a gesture. He said that he could not understand why O’Brien was beside the lorry as it reversed.
The firm was fined £47,475 and ordered to pay costs of £82,946.11 after it was found guilty of a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The HSE carried out an investigation and found that arrangements to segregate pedestrians from moving vehicles on site were wholly inadequate.
What should employers do?
Risk assessments should be carried out before any work task is undertaken. There are five steps in any risk assessment; these are:
1: Identify hazards, i.e. anything that may cause harm.
2: Decide who may be harmed, and how.
3: Assess the risks and take action.
4: Make a record of the findings.
5: Review the risk assessment.
Where possible, the job should be designed in such a way that the need for reversing is eliminated. This may include re-routing access or setting up an installation in another place to which there is forward access.
Whilst all vehicles are fitted with mirrors as standard, it may be a very good idea to add extra mirrors if driver blind spots have been identified. These will give drivers a much better ability to see cyclists and pedestrians who are alongside the vehicle and can improve all-round visibility from the driver’s seat. This can also reduce the risk of cyclist and pedestrian injuries or deaths whilst the vehicle is in general traffic.
A clear view
Cabs of vehicles should be kept clear as any objects could impede visibility from the driver’s seat or block the view of CCTV monitors.
All windows and mirrors need to be kept in good repair, not abraded, scratched or cracked. A system for cleaning vehicles should be put in place and owners should make sure that windows and mirrors are included in this.
Because of their size, shape and length, some vehicles have poor cab visibility. The size and position of the vehicle’s load can also affect what the driver can see. The employer should take these factors into account when writing a risk assessment and consider means to reduce them as far as possible.
One way of enabling drivers to see clearly behind their vehicle is CCTV. This can cover most blind spots and has, over the past few years, become more reliable and less expensive.
Systems are available in both colour and black and white; the former can provide a clearer image in situations when there is not much contrast but the latter will give a better image in poor light or darkness. Infra-red settings can be much more effective than standard cameras when used at night.
The best place for a CCTV camera to be fitted is usually the middle of the vehicle’s rear (if one camera is being used) or on each upper corner (if a two camera system). This will better enable the driver to judge distance and provide a greater field of vision. It will also lessen the effects of dust and spray.
Limitations of CCTV
Useful as it is, CCTV does have limitations. If the vehicle is often moving from dark areas to brighter ones, it may take time for the system to adjust and that period of ‘blindness’ can pose accident risks.
If the lens of the camera gets dirty, it will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the system and if it is placed high up on the vehicle, it may be less accessible when cleaning is required.
Drivers who have not had experience of the system may find that they are unable to accurately judge heights and distances.
CCTV is an aid rather than a solution and therefore should be used in conjunction with other measures such as training for all employees who are going to be using it, even if only for a short time.
Large vehicles can sometimes be fitted with radar devices that can be used as an aid when undertaking reversing manoeuvres.
Although reversing alarms are probably the most common safety measure when manoeuvring large vehicles, it should be considered that they may be drowned out by other noises on busy sites or may become so commonplace that they are no longer noticed.
Locating the hazard can also be difficult. People who are hard of hearing may not be able to react to a reversing alarm in time. Alarms can also disturb nearby residents and this may be a problem for participants in schemes such as Considerate Contractors.
Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment, it may be appropriate to make use of reversing alarms but they can be more effective if they are used in conjunction with other measures, such as warning lights.