Health and Safety Executive issues safety alert on excavators after four fatalities in last year

The Health and Safety Executive has issued a safety alert on the use of quick hitches on excavators, after four fatalities involving the plant in the last year.

Quick hitches are used to attach tools to the dipper arm of the plant. Held in place by a retaining pin, they allow the excavator to be use digging and piling tools as well as a bucket.

The HSE has said that four people have been killed since December 2006 as a result of operators failing to put in place a retaining pin for the hitch.

Hitches can work for some time without a retaining pin, but will swing open or fall off at some point during the operation unless the pin is in place.

The HSE has issued the following advice for users of quick hitches:

  • Excavator operators should be adequately trained on the use of quick hitches in general;
  • Excavator operators should be competent to use the specific hitch on the machine they use;
  • The manufacturer-specified retaining pin must be available on the machine;
  • Operators should only use pins which have been designed for this specific use;
  • There should be a system for checking that the pin is in place on the hitch before starting the work and every time a different attachment is fitted;
  • Operators should be instructed not to use the machine unless they are satisfied that the quick hitch is secured in place. If the operator cannot see from the cab of the vehicle due to poor weather then s/he must visually check from the ground;
  • Those in control of sites should undertake random checks to ensure the precautions are being implemented.

More information on the safe use of manual and automatic quick hitches can be found at the HSE’s website below.