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It is currently more important than ever that regular pre-planned service and maintenance of existing load-handling equipment is implemented.

This is because, in the economic downturn, companies may delay loading bay and materials-handling equipment renewal or upgrades.

Failure to do so is a false economy that could have serious and expensive consequences for machinery owners and operators, says John Meale, managing director of loading/unloading equipment specialist Thorworld Industries.

An estimated 25 per cent of factory and warehouse accidents occur in and around the loading bay.

High levels of personnel and mechanical traffic, often combined with a low appreciation of the risks involved, mean that loading bays can, potentially, be extremely hazardous places in which to work.

The British Safety Council has warned that in the current business climate there is a danger that firms will cut back on health and safety planning and implementation.

This is a short-sighted approach as it could lead to potential equipment failure, together with a possible increase in employee injuries at work.

There are many statutory obligations where it is a legal requirement for loading bay and load-handling equipment – including industrial doors, mobile yard ramps, dock levellers, lifting platforms and scissor lifts – to be subject to thorough examination inspections, in conjunction with regular service and maintenance programmes.

These include the Health and Safety at Work Act; the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER); Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER); and the Machinery Directive.

In general terms, the PUWER regulations – which cover the use of mobile loading ramps – require that equipment provided for use at work is: suitable for the intended use; safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure this remains the case; used only by people that have received adequate information, instruction and training; and accompanied by suitable safety measures, for protective devices, markings and warnings.

The new Machinery Directive (effective from 29/12/09) has been introduced with the aim of reducing the number of accidents relating to machinery use by setting much stricter safety standards.

There are also additional recommendations from the Federation Europeene de la Manutention (FEM) – the European Materials Handling Federation – under their Periodic Inspection of Lifting Tables and Dock Levellers guidelines.

Further information regarding some of the various applicable regulations and statutory obligations is available on the Thorworld website or direct from one of the company’s industry specialists.

However, making sure a loading-bay area is safe is not just about meeting the correct regulations.

It shows that employers are taking health-and-safety issues seriously and are concerned about the well-being of their employees.

Failing to meet the appropriate regulations and servicing and maintaining load-handling equipment properly can result in a fine and, if an employee is injured in an accident due to equipment not being maintained properly, it can also mean employers will be faced with an expensive personal injury claim, as well as possibly invalidating any manufacturer warranties.

Badly maintained equipment can also lead to expensive downtime with vital work and productivity being badly disrupted.

Buying equipment from a reputable supplier and implementing a regular inspection and maintenance schedule as part of a pre-planned service contract is an extremely cost-effective way of avoiding such problems, while also extending machinery working life.

It is crucial that all loading-bay equipment bears the CE mark.

This is the manufacturer’s confirmation that it meets all the essential health-and-safety requirements of the Machinery Directive.

For example, Thorworld is BSI registered with CE mark certification, it has been ISO 9001 accredited since 1992 and was one of the first in the industry to achieve the latest ISO 9001:2008 international quality-management standard.

As a result, as well as bearing the CE mark, all of its equipment comes with a 12-month warranty.

Thorworld service and maintenance contracts are available for all relevant equipment it provides, (such as mobile container-loading ramps, electro-hydraulic dock levellers, mobile lifting platforms and scissor lifts); this delivers compliance with all the relevant regulations and also ensures the correct operation of the equipment so as to maintain the efficiency of business operations.

As part of a Thorworld pre-planned service-and-maintenance agreement, its team of dedicated service engineers will inspect and maintain all of the equipment it supplies and can also advise about (and undertake) any essential repairs.

All of its service and installation staff are suitably qualified; most are members of the Construction Skill Certification Scheme (CSCS), holders of the Client/Contractor National Safety Group Safety Passport (CCNSG), and are highly experienced.

Under the terms of its service contract it carries out regular annual inspections, although some customers prefer a six-month check: it all depends on the type of equipment and level of use.

Where required, on-site staff training can also be carried out, with competency certificates issued where appropriate.

Spending a relatively small amount each year on a pre-planned service-and-maintenance agreement is a valuable long-term investment, just like taking out an extended service contract on a car after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.

It will save money, increase personnel safety, ensure companies keep within the law and, at the same time, extend the working life of equipment by keeping it in a tip-top safe and efficient working condition – providing extra peace of mind for all concerned.

Thorworld provides a one-stop single source for a variety of high-quality loading bay and materials-handling products, safety aids and accessories, including: dock shelters and seals, dock levellers, modular loading docks, dock plates and boards, dock and vehicle bumpers, wheel chocks, vehicle restraints, traffic lights, wheel guides, alignment curbs and mobile yardramps (available for purchase or rental), together with the Truckloada mobile yardlift and the Dockloada scissor-lift platform.

Thorworld Industries

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