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HSE to get tough on drilling and breaking

PLANT Safety inspectors to ask site managers to justify tool use and consider alternatives

INSPECTORS from the Health and Safety Executive are to ask site managers to justify why their sites are using a range of tools considered to cause unnecessary risk of hand-arm vibration.

The list of tools that HSE believes could be reasonably substituted by other methods contains a number that are used by wide sections of the industry, including combihammers and hand-held breakers.

Specialist inspector Tim Ward said the Executive realised that this could mean a change of culture for many sites, but that it wanted to see evidence that contractors were giving proper consideration to the real risks of vibration injury.

He said: 'We want the industry to adopt best practice.

If you assume hand tool use is 'inevitable' and you manage the risk purely by choosing between tools, rather that identifying possible alternatives, we believe that is poor practice.

'Working up to the daily limits of tool use is not what we want to see - it should not be seen as a target' The list of practices that HSE will be particularly looking at when it does its next 'blitz ' of inspections comprises: breaking of concrete, pile cropping and wall chasing using handheld breakers; tunnelling using hand tools; scabbling using scabblers or needle scalers and drilling with hammer drills or combihammers.

The executive believes there are lower-risk alternatives to all those tool uses, ranging from use of breakers on mini-excavators through waterjetting and diamond saws for concrete removal to no-dig methods to avoid trenching.

Mr Ward said that unnecessary hand-drilling could be avoided by more use of diamond drilling, jig-mounting and direct fastening methods such as shot f ir ing.

If designers allow for cast-in anchoring, it would avoid the drilling stage altogether, he said.

He added that inspectors would be asking more searching questions of duty holders to ensure that they have made proper risk assessments.

'We are going in at a high level, we should not be asking the workers, who often simply have to do what they are inst ructed to do.' Mr Ward said.