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Different approaches to preventing falls off machines

Digger Blogger | 20:07, Thu October 31 2013

I spotted these demolition-spec excavators at work yesterday right outside Victoria Station.

Micor Demolition is excavating the southern ticket hall as part of London Underground's £700 million Victoria Station Upgrade.There are a couple of Hitachi machines and a Cat of various middling sizes.

What struck me as interesting about them, however, was the wire threaded through a series of posts on the back end of each machine – intended as a fall prevention system. You can see the wires better in the picture below.

Judging by Micor’s website, where there are lots of photos of machines (like the one below) but none with these wires on the back, this seems to be a special measure to meet LU’s safety standards.

LU’s construction supervisor tells me that LU insists that all suppliers have measures in place mitigate the risk of falls but it does not specify what form these measures should take. He told me that he was very impressed by Micor’s solution. Those wires, he said, were enough to stop someone inadvertently stepping backwards off the top of the machine.

I take a different view, however, so thought it worth exploring here.

I applaud Micor’s ability to satisfy the elf n safety brigade with such an economic solution but this does not look to me like a totally satisfactory way forward.

Micro does at least go further than most of the OEMs who seem to regard the risk of falling off one of their machines as not worth addressing. They’ve started to get much better with the provision of decent steps and handrails to get into the cab but they clearly don’t expect anyone to be clambering around the back, as these examples show.

This looks only marginally better.

And the Chinese are surprisingly among the better ones.

But there are better ways tackling this and mostly it seems to have been the mining and quarrying industry that has demanded proper solutions, rather than wire and coat hangers that seems to be good enough for even the strictest construction clients like London Underground.

Take a look at these much more substantial solutions:

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A totally different approach involves providing good solid tie-off points, although you then have the problem of persuading people to use harnesses and policing that.

In the oil fields of Texas, Bechtel has adopted this solution for its rough terrain cranes. This is a different type of machine, granted, but I'm sure it hurst just the same, whatever you fall off.

The handle is power-sprung to help the use clamber up and down as well as keep them securely tied off once on top.

This same system can be used to run along a rail at foot-level for safe walking along the booms of cranes. It’s used on top of wind turbine nacelles as well.

So one cheer for Micor. They’ve made the effort which is more than most. But there are better solutions out there.

Are they worth the money? They definitely are, once you or a mate – or even an employee – has taken a spill. Until that happens, I suppose most will carry on doubting it.

However, OEMs should not be allowed to get away with charging for these as optional extras. The Work at Height Regs have been in force nearly a decade now. These fall prevention measures should be no more optional than safety-belts in a car.

I welcome your thoughts...









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