Mobile plant operation at construction sites exposes workers to a variety of health and safety risks which have the potential to kill or seriously injure them or those around them. The proper operation of mobile plant equipment, as well as a thorough understanding of risk mitigation, is crucial to creating an incident-free construction workplace. In this article, we take a look at 5 top safety concerns for mobile plant operation and how to manage them.
What is mobile plant?
As defined by the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation), mobile plant is defined as “any plant that is provided with some form of self-propulsion that is ordinarily under the direct control of an operator”, and includes:
– Earthmoving machinery such as rollers, graders, scrapers and bobcats
– Elevating work platforms
– Concrete placement booms
– Reach stackers and forklifts
Next, we cover the top 5 risks involved with mobile plant according to Worksafe Queensland, and how these risks can best be managed.
1 – Falling objects and risk of ejection of operator
The nature of mobile plant operation in construction sites means managing the risk of falling objects and of ejection of the operator from the plant. Falling objects which pose a risk might include tree branches, scaffolding, construction materials and tools, for example. If the mobile plant is working in conditions in which these risks are present, the plant should be fitted with protective structure which protects against falling objects. Choosing the appropriate mobile plant equipment for the potential risks involved is critical, as is the wearing of seatbelts by plant operators.
2 – Plant overturning
Operating on uneven or unstable surfaces, encountering slippery surfaces, or even towing other equipment or objects means that mobile plant machinery may be exposed to the risk of overturning. Overturning plant can risk the safety of its operator and those in the vicinity and can cause a great deal of damage to the equipment itself. If the risk of overturning is present, the plant should be fitted with a ‘roll over protection structure’ (ROPS), as well as seatbelts and other appropriate restraining devices.
3 – Collision or contact
Any mobile plant equipment faces the risk of collision, or of coming into contact with other objects or persons within the area. There are a number of critical risk mitigation strategies which can be applied to reduce these risks. These include:
– Proper training and certification of operators
– Reverse alarms and/or flashing lights fitted to mobile plant
– Proper surveying of area for overhead hazards including trees and powerlines
– Understanding of the relevant regulations around minimum distances from power lines etc.
– The wearing of seatbelts by plant operators
– Proper traffic management and fencing to separate plant from pedestrians and traffic
– Wearing of personnel protective equipment and high-vis clothing and protective gear
4 – Mechanical or hydraulic failure
Mechanical or hydraulic failure can slow progress to a standstill and risk the safety of operators and other personnel. Whilst it can be difficult to completely avoid failures of these kinds, it is important that appropriate prevention and maintenance procedures are adhered to, and that there are plans in place to manage any unexpected failures. Mobile plant must be properly maintained and serviced to avoid any potential preventable failures, and all personnel on site should be aware of the health and safety protocols in the event of a failure. These might include clearing the area, contacting the site manager, removing hazardous materials etc.
5 – Excessive noise and/or fumes
Mobile plant can generate a lot of noise and, in some cases, hazardous fumes. It is important that operators and those within the vicinity are equipped with appropriate safety gear such as ear protection and, where appropriate, breathing apparatus. Plant equipment may also be fitted with soundproofed and air-conditioned cabs to mitigate unnecessary risks to operators. Any mobile plant generating excessive and unexpected noise or fumes should be inspected and serviced accordingly, before being cleared for operation.