Falls of heavy items
Approximately 30% of all the fatal accidents in manufacturing in Great Britain between 2003 and 2009 involved the fall of a heavy item . Maintenance activities often require heavy items to be moved, but they can also disturb heavy items unintentionally.
Typical incidents have included: the failure of lifting equipment; inappropriate lifting and slinging practices; inadequate supports or supports not resting on level/firm ground ; incorrectly estimating of the weight or centre of gravity of the load, and over estimation of an individual's capability to support a load or restrain its movement.
If a heavy item has to be moved or temporarily supported during maintenance work, it is crucial that the risks involved are assessed and a plan of action is properly thought through. The people responsible for the maintenance work shouldn't presume that things will be OK, that others will know what to do, or that the right equipment will necessarily be available. These lifts, or the use of temporary supports may be 'one offs', and will inevitably require more knowledge and skill than routine production tasks.
What are the key precautions?
- Make sure everyone involved in maintenance understands the risks from heavy items, and communicate your intentions clearly
- Assess the risks (including the risk of disturbing something inadvertently) and decide on your plan of action before a heavy item is moved or temporarily supported
- Make sure there is someone competent to provide advice on safe slinging and on safe working practices for work involving heavy loads
- Make sure any equipment used to lift or support a heavy load is suitable and (where necessary) has had its inspection and test by a competent person
- Do not leave heavy items unsecured where they may tip over, fall or slip, and don't work under suspended loads that haven't been properly propped in position.
- Don't overestimate the ability of a person to prevent a heavy item from moving.
Basic advice is available in these web pages on planning and supervising lifts and on the temporary instability of heavy items. There is also published HSE guidance on legal requirements related to lifting in: