Safe Loading and Unloading of Plant

By
Updated: November 21, 2018

Safety is extremely important when loading and unloading plant.

Two separate incidents that occurred in NSW and QLD earlier this year resulted in the fatality of one person, and a very near miss for a second. Both incidents involved the loading or unloading of heavy plant from a float on uneven ground. In both cases, the people at the controls were experienced in this activity.

In one incident, the item of plant involved was a pad foot roller with rubber tyres at one end and a steel drum with compaction pedestals at the other. The second incident involved an excavator of approximately 27 tonnes in weight, fitted with steel tracks. This is an example of two very different machine configurations but in both cases the contact faces between the machine and the deck of the float offered insufficient friction.

Steel on steel is very slippery, particularly when there are harder alloys for improved wear properties involved. This combined with the uneven gradient where the loading/unloading operation occurred enabled the machine to slip, fall and turn over. In both cases, the incident occurred on the verge of a public road and posed potential risk to other members of the public.

What can we learn from these incidents? How can we manage this better and satisfactorily mitigate the risks involved to our staff, contractors and the public?

To answer that question, you need to ask yourself a few more:

  1. Do you have access to even ground to perform the necessary loading/ unloading operations on?
  2. Is the person/s tasked with loading the equipment suitably qualified, experienced and familiar with the specific equipment to safely perform the loading and/or unloading of the equipment?
  3. Can the ramp angle be reduced by way of constructing a bed of earth or other material beneath them?
  4. Can the plant item be transported on a tilt tray secured by a winch, potentially negating the need for an operator in the cab?
  5. Can a spotter/s be provided to guide the machine onto transport?
  6. Are the weather conditions conducive to safe plant loading?
  7. Is there sufficient day light at the planned loading time?
  8. Is the float/trailer ideally suited for the required plant item with regards to mass and dimensions?
  9. Are the deck and ramps clean and free from mud or oil from previous equipment?

Unless you can answer positively to all of the above points, there’s probably more you could do to further mitigate the risk associated with loading and unloading of plant.

For insurance purposes, many heavy haulage companies will elect to operate the plant while loading and unloading it on their float. It is however important to ensure they are competent at doing so.

‘RIIHAN308E Load and Unload Plant’ is offered as a means of providing training and as a reference point for verification of competency to an industry accepted standard. While it is not compulsory this qualification be held to perform plant loading and unloading operations, it certainly provides a good basis for your SWMS and SMP. In any case, if you use external heavy haulage contractors, it’s advisable that you request a documented VOC statement for each driver.

In the event that an incident was to occur, particularly in the public domain as per the incidents mentioned above, you may potentially need to make a claim on a compulsory third party CTP policy. You can’t hold CTP without conditional registration on your plant, which is a legislative requirement when plant is parked, operated or driven in a “road related area”. It’s also advisable that you request, review and understand the level of transit insurance cover held by any external parties that load/unload and carry your equipment. Specific to loading and unloading, it’s important to know whether or not you’re covered to drive on and off their float, or whether cover is specific to the insured party.

Next time you need to load or unload machinery, spare a thought for the family of the poor soul who lost his life earlier this year. Take your time, identify the risks and take steps to ensure they don’t become factors in a life threatening accident.

Stay Safe