A quick hitch is piece of work equipment. It is also called a quick coupler. It works by being attached to the arm of an excavator and enables the operator to change buckets or attachments rapidly. There has been a spate of fatal accidents involving improper use of quick hitches over the past 5 years.
All quick hitches that are designed to the standard (EN 474-1 Annex b) carry a CE mark. This mark is a declaration that it conforms to the standard and should be safe to use by a competent operator
There are many types and sizes of quick hitch. It is easiest to break them down into three levels of automation, manual, semi automatic and automatic. Most of the fatal accidents have happened with semi automatic hitches.
Semi automatic hitches require a ‘pin’ to be inserted in order to lock off and secure the connection. If this pin is not inserted then the machine will still work, but in the event of a loss of power it will work itself loose and the bucket/ attachment will fall off. The real danger is that this could take half a minute or half an hour which makes it unpredictable.
No. However HSE and manufacturers have agreed to stop the supply of semi automatics in favour of other types, which do not present the same risks. However, if used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions semi automatic hitches can still be safely used. Monitoring and supervision of the changing of buckets and attachments play a vital role in the management of the risk.
You should look at your business needs and assess which type of hitch is right for the work you do. Each different hitch brings different benefits and you should ensure you select the right equipment for the task. For more information on this topic refer to STF/ HSE guidance on the safe use of quick hitches.