46 · Feature
D & D Autumn 08
QUICK HITCH CHANGE
1 October 2008 marked the end of the line for many varieties of quick hitch. ECY managing director Richard Yarwood explains why manufacturers have agreed to pull their products from the UK market and how a new breed of system is set to improve safety further.
Over the past few years the quick hitch has become a familiar, almost indispensible element of the demolition industry. But a change to European standards means that the majority of quick hitches in use will no longer meet the design and safety standards set for new products. This legislation will take some time to come into force, but from 1 October 2008 the manufacturers of the effected equipment have voluntarily agreed to cease supply to the UK market. The changes were introduced after a spate of fatal accidents prompted a review by the HSE into the design of the equipment and the working practices of those who use them. Between December 2006 and November 2007 four men were killed by falling attachments after the quick hitches used to hold them on
failed. In all four cases the quick hitches in question were semi-automatic, and in all four cases the safety pin used to keep the attachment in place had not been secured.
■ U N R E P O R T E D I N C I D E N T S Following this, research by Bovis Lend Lease and the Institute for Occupational Ergonomics found that in nearly 90 percent of the incidents involving semi- automatic hitches the safety pin had not been fitted and that this had been the main cause of the accident. And the fatalities are just the tip of the iceberg, with 13 percent of all recorded excavator accidents involving unexpected detachments injuring workers. More worryingly, estimates suggest that the vast majority of such incidents go unrecorded simply because they were fortunate to
happen when there was no-one working in close proximity to the unsafe attachment. Bovis Lend Lease’s research also found that most respondents believed that better training and monitoring could have prevented the incidents, but also that the most popular way of preventing future incidents would be to move to fully automatic quick hitch systems, with the phasing out of semi-automatic and manual systems. These findings are in keeping with the HSE’s position that, when used properly, semi- automatic quick hitches are safe, but that workers will continue to fail to insert the safety pin. They contend that this constitutes a foreseeable abnormal use that must be taken into consideration when designing and manufacturing products. The HSE has sent a Safeguard into Europe to
object to the current design standards so that they can be changed to reflect the reality of the situation.
■ P R O H I B I T I O N N O T I C E In essence, these changes, and the co-operation of the current manufacturers mean that as of 1 October it will not be possible to purchase new semi-automatic quick hitches in the UK. However, such hitches will still be available for hire or supplied second hand or as spares as long as the suppliers comply with the relevant pieces of health and safety legislation – in these cases PUWER and Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. In addition to this, HSE inspectors will be keeping an eye on the use of semi- automatic hitches, and improper use, even without incident, could lead to a prohibition notice, or even prosecution.
47 · Feature
In the long term it will mean the gradual phasing out of semi- automatic hitches and it is noteworthy that this is the point in time that Scandinavian company OilQuick has decided to enter the UK and Irish markets. With over 5,000
systems already installed internationally, OilQuick is the first in the next generation of quick hitch systems, automating not only the hitching process but also connecting any additional hydraulic hoses at the same time.
Demolition News, as it happens
D & D Autumn 08
Self contained systems like this further reduce the risk of accident by eliminating slack hydraulic hoses that can get caught or damaged when in use. And because the entire process is managed from inside the cab, not only is the risk of slips or falls when climbing in and out of the cab reduced but the increased efficiency can save a company thousands of pounds in man-hours over the life-time of the equipment. So while at first glance the loss of new semi-automatic quick hitches may seem like a stumbling block for demolition contractors to get over, on further reflection it may be the very incentive that many companies need to take the step towards upgrading their systems and working practices.
Richard Yarwood is the Managing Director of Haulmark Equipment ltd, one of Europe’s Leading suppliers of equipment to the Demolition, Recycling and Rehandling industries and sole UK distributor for VTN, Dynaset, LaBounty and OilQuick.