Mobile plant encompasses a range of equipment, including excavators, cranes, and dumper trucks, varying in size and design. However, improper operation of this equipment can introduce significant hazards to the work area, potentially leading to serious incidents. Moreover, failure to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance can render mobile plants unsafe. A common cause of accidents involving mobile plants occurs when workers or members of the public approach the equipment while it is in operation. Work carried out on underground services, such as pipes and cables, particularly in confined areas near public highways, presents additional risks due to limited workspace.

Unfortunately, there are frequent notifications of incidents at construction sites where employees, contractors, or visitors have been injured due to on-site incidents involving mobile plants, equipment, or vehicles. However, it is often observed that the focus of investigation teams during such incidents remains limited to the immediate event, neglecting the broader perspective.

To effectively manage mobile plants, equipment, and vehicles on site, companies should develop a comprehensive traffic management plan, preceded by a thorough risk assessment.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT PLAN

While companies may have various standards addressing different aspects of traffic management, consolidating this information into a single “Traffic Management Plan” accessible to all relevant personnel is recommended. A traffic management plan should consist of several elements, focusing on the following three main categories:

SAFE PREMISES

To ensure a secure site concerning the mobile plant, equipment, and vehicle traffic control, organizations should establish systems that encompass the following:

  • Designated safe pedestrian routes for employees, contractors, and visitors.
  • Marked roadways for vehicles within the site.
  • Designated areas for loading and off-loading.
  • Identification of “No-go areas.”
  • Procedures for safe loading and securing of loads.
  • Segregation of mobile plants, vehicles, and individuals.

SAFE MOBILE PLANT AND EQUIPMENT

The second element of an effective traffic management plan is to ensure that the equipment used is suitable for the job, capable of handling the loads and products. Schedules and standards should be developed and implemented to manage inspections, tests, and maintenance of all company-owned mobile plants and equipment.

A contractor must take the necessary measures to ensure that all construction vehicles and mobile plants meet certain requirements. The vehicles and plants should be designed and constructed in a manner that is deemed acceptable, taking into account safety and health considerations. Regular maintenance should be carried out to keep the vehicles and plants in good working order, ensuring their reliability and minimizing the risk of malfunctions or failures. The vehicles and plants should be used in accordance with their intended design and purpose, giving utmost consideration to safety and health aspects. This involves employing them in a manner that aligns with their intended use while taking necessary precautions to mitigate any potential risks.

SAFE DRIVERS/OPERATORS

It is the company’s responsibility to ensure that individuals operating mobile plants and equipment are competent, capable, and medically fit for the task. The following considerations should be included:

Competence

All drivers and operators must possess the necessary skills to operate the equipment, ideally demonstrated through the successful completion of relevant training courses. Regular on-site evaluations by supervisors are recommended even after training is completed.

Medical Fitness

Regular medical examinations should be conducted for all drivers and operators to verify their fitness for operating the equipment. Individuals found unfit should be assigned alternative duties.

Licensing and Authorization

All drivers and operators should carry a valid license card issued by training/licensing institutions or an internal license issued by the company.

Substance Abuse

Implement a substance abuse program that includes random testing for individuals entering or exiting the premises. Drivers and operators involved in incidents should undergo substance abuse testing.

SOME OTHER ASPECTS

Visibility

To ensure safety, mobile plant operators must maintain a clear field of vision while operating their equipment. This entails having an unobstructed 360° view that covers all blind spots. Familiarity with local regulations and laws governing the use of mobile plants, particularly when operating on public highways, is crucial. Achieving a complete 360° visibility around the equipment can be accomplished through the use of mirrors or closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Regular checks should be conducted to ensure that the mirrors or CCTV cameras are clean and in proper working condition. If any issues are identified, prompt replacement or repairs should be carried out.

Coming close to mobile work equipment

When approaching mobile work equipment, it is important to note that even with additional visibility aids, the plant operator may not have their attention focused in the right direction at the right time. Therefore, it is always best for individuals to establish eye contact with the operator and wait for them to come to a stop and give permission before approaching or passing by. Never assume that the plant operator has noticed your presence!

All plant operators should conduct daily pre-use inspections on their mobile equipment before starting work. These inspections serve to identify any noticeable defects in the equipment, such as broken mirrors, malfunctioning CCTV systems, faulty controls, lights, signals, or warning systems, as well as low fluid levels or fluid leaks that could compromise the safe operation. A common issue is the improper fitting of safety locating pins, which can result in attachments falling off the mobile equipment. A comprehensive checklist of pre-use inspection checks should be provided in the plant operator’s handbook for the specific mobile equipment.

In conclusion, as managers and safety professionals, we have a moral obligation to provide a safe working environment for everyone on our premises. Incidents involving mobile plants, equipment, or vehicles can result in disabilities or even fatalities. Therefore, let us ensure the implementation of a comprehensive traffic management plan in our operations to minimize the occurrence of such incidents.

Our Services

Simplicity requires time, expertise, and experience. It demands someone who can navigate the intricacies and distill it into a comprehensible solution. At Cairnmead, we possess that skill. We recognize that, regardless of the complexity of the problem, the simplicity of the end result is what truly counts.

Contact us to find out more:

Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email: christof@cairnmead.co.za

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