Health and safety: Small things make a difference

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Faced with a driver complaining of stress at work, many of Britain’s van fleet operators would be unsympathetic in the extreme.

But think of the consequences.

If that driver obtains a sick note from the doctor, he or she could be off work for months, leaving you short of staff and out of pocket.

A YouGov poll for the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) recently found 44% of the 2,000 adults surveyed in the logistics and transport industry admitted they were feeling more pressure because of the recession.

Some 37% said it was because of increased responsibilities combined with fewer resources available from their employer.

And 65% said they were worried about job insecurity.

Jane Gillham, from training company Pivotal Performance, said: “Everyone knows someone who is at threat of redundancy right now and that places huge internal pressure on you to perform better in your own role. Ironically the stress this can create is more likely to make you less efficient in what you do.

"All that worrying is not good for your mind or body and is likely to affect you.”

The firm has put together a series of anti-stress tips which are aimed at combating this growing problem:

  • Develop better time management skills. Learn to prioritise work and do the most important things first
  • Take more breaks. Working through lunch makes you less effective in the afternoons, meaning you will achieve less overall
  • Listen more. The answers are always there in front of you – you just need to listen for them instead of arguing your point
  • Get more sleep. A well-rested body makes it easier to put proper perspective on your problems
  • Laugh more. It’s nature’s stress reliever. A bit of office banter creates a better workplace.

Are you familiar with LOLER?

Research carried out by leasing company ING has revealed there is widespread confusion about the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and how often vehicles should be checked.

This is despite 75% of those companies surveyed claiming to know what LOLER was.

Dave Freeman, head of LCVs at ING, said: “The findings have highlighted some really interesting and important points about the day-to-day realities of the regulations

“We found that 75% of respondents were aware of LOLER and its implications, which is positive.

"However, when we asked how often businesses examined the lifting equipment on their vehicles, there was little uniformity in the responses.

"This is clearly a matter of concern.

"While 50% of businesses said they checked annually, 16% said quarterly and 33% monthly.”

LOLER regulations require that vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes with electronic and hydraulic equipment are serviced at least every six months and tested annually, but, Freeman said: “We are finding when talking to customers that this is not clear.

"Many believe that when vehicles are taken in for service and MoT, this takes care of LOLER testing but this is not the case. Responsibility for the testing of lifting equipment lies with the vehicle operator.

"What’s more is that we are finding many, particularly smaller dealerships, are not set up to perform tests on lifting equipment.

“Our research has therefore been vital in highlighting that at least 50% of drivers could be putting themselves at risk of prosecution.

"And this figure could be higher as there is a tendency for people to say they are doing the right thing when questioned, so the reality could be a lot bleaker.”

Fleets running vehicles with lifting equipment need to make sure their examination procedures are clearly set out and adhered to without exception, said Freeman.

Both employers and employees should fully understand the implications of LOLER.

Modul-System offers van racking checks

Many vans have specialist racking systems installed nowadays – but are they safe?
Racking specialist Modul-System has launched a free load restraint safety check.

Fleets which call into one of Modul-Systems’ three service centres in York, Colchester and Wellesbourne in Warwickshire for the non-obligation assessment will have the following items looked at by a specialist:

  • Check brackets to see if there are enough, their condition and whether they are fitted correctly.
  • Check mounting points to ensure they are in working order and are able to distribute weight appropriately when the van is loaded.
  • Alert the customer to any potential hazards in terms of what they are carrying or the condition of their racking.
  • Assess whether they are overloading either their current racking or their van.

Don’t make light of the threat of handling injuries

Any fleet which expects drivers to lift loads may be interested to learn that, according to figures from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), 35% of reportable workplace injuries and 16% of all major injuries in the year ending April 2008 were related to handling.

Some 1.3 million lost working days were due to handling, lifting or carrying and the average absence from work was seven days.

A fair proportion of these involve handling items on and off vans, pickups and other commercial vehicles.

Realistically there are only two ways to reduce the risks associated with manual handling. The first is to ensure any manual handling remains inside the current guidelines.

This is why, for example, packs of minerals and aggregates used in the building and related trades are now found in smaller sizes.

The recommended maximum weight to be lifted under any circumstances is just 25kg for men and 15kg for women, not much when you consider this less than the weight of a typical bag of sand or cement.

Penny Hydraulics manufactures lifting and load handling equipment for use in a wide range of applications.

Products include the Swing Lift range of medium duty cranes for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and flat-beds and the Step Lift, Load Lift and Tail Lift lifting platform ranges for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and vans.

The company also manufactures the Mezz Lift for handling loads between ground floor and mezzanines and specialist equipment for handling wheels, tyres and barrels in vehicles and at customers’ premises.

Are your drivers belting up? Some 31% aren’t

One simple way of improving safety on the roads is by ensuring that your drivers are wearing seatbelts.

It may sound obvious but according to one expert, some 31% of van drivers in the UK don’t.

Seatbelts have prevented an estimated 60,000 deaths and 670,000 serious injuries in the last 25 years, but there is widespread concern that a ‘stubborn minority’ of people still do not belt up when they get into a vehicle – particularly van drivers.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “Thousands of lives have been saved by seatbelts.

"But there is a big problem with van drivers (69% wearing rate) and their passengers (58%) and we need employers to do more to ensure their drivers and other employees put on their seatbelts.”

Adrian Walsh, director of safety organisation RoadSafe, added: “The business case for adopting good practice is very clear.

"Some 14,000 road deaths and serious injuries occur annually involving vehicles driven on company business and this is a significant financial burden for businesses.

"The high incidence of company drivers who fail to belt up indicates a lax attitude – it is the clear responsibility of management to change this for the better.”

Our advice is to get your drivers together, explain the problem and threaten them with dismissal if they are found to be driving without a seatbelt.

Your strategy should be summed up in the company drivers’ handbook.

If you think the problem persists, try staking out known routes and catching offenders red-handed.


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  • Alastair Brown - 06/11/2014 21:14

    Hi there, I'm developing (and have patented) a product called the 'Vehicle Edge Protection System' which affords protection against falls whilst loading goods on the roofrack of vans. The system has been developed in response to the deaths and injuries which have occured as a result of such accidents. The guardrails are errected in seconds from the ground, and have been carefully designed so as to not impinge on the available storage space

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