Safety alert issued on remote controlled plant operation

Wednesday, 22 January, 2020

Safety alert issued on remote controlled plant operation

WorkSafe Victoria has issued a reminder about the safe use of plant or equipment, after an employee was killed when a bridge crane collided with a raised mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) that the employee was working from. A remote control for the bridge crane was inadvertently operated by the employee, resulting in the MEWP overturning.

Remote controls or transmitting units are often used to operate plant in a range of industries, such as construction, mining, logistics, agriculture and forestry. Operating these items can bring plant or items that the plant is handling in close proximity to persons, presenting risk of serious injury or death if a remote control device is advertently activated. This risk can be managed by ensuring that a function enable switch is incorporated into the design of the remote control device. A function enable switch ensures that an additional input into the remote control must be made for the desired function to occur, and can be a hold bar, trigger, button or pull-to-operate design.

Setting the automatic power off (where available) to the shortest time could reduce risk of inadvertent activation of the remote control. Employers should also ensure that employees have switched off or deactivated remote controls after use, and that all controls that cause the plant to move have returned to a neutral position once released. Employers should also ensure that the operating frequencies of the remote controls do not affect other remote controlled plant or equipment at the workplace, and that buttons on remote controls are protected, with joy sticks or levels fitted with rollover bars.

Employers should also take measures to prevent unauthorised use, by ensuring that remote controls are locked away when not in use or by using remote controls with personal identification numbers, so they only function when the correct code is entered. Ensuring that remote controls are not placed on the floor, or anywhere where they can be knocked or stepped on, could also reduce risk of accidents.

Employers are also urged to ensure that remote controls are only operated in locations designated for the purpose, free of tripping hazards with adequate line-of-sight. Operators should not move to another location while operating the remote control, instead isolating the equipment or switching off the remote control prior to repositioning themselves. Remote controls must also be set up, paired, inspected, maintained and operated in accordance with the manufacturers’ specifications.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must provide and maintain a safe working environment without risks to the health of employees. This includes providing or maintaining plant or systems of work that are safe and pose no risk to health. Risks associated with the plant must be eliminated or reduced by substituting the plant with plant that has a lower level of risk, or isolating the plant from persons, or using engineering controls.

Powered mobile plant must also be fitted with a warning device if there is a chance of colliding with other powered mobile plant. Employees must also receive the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to perform their work in a safe and risk-free way. Employers must also ensure that people other than employees are not exposed to risks arising from the employer’s conduct.

Image credit: © Damkier

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