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Plant headaches

2005 REVIEW

ANOTHER year in the plant industry and another year spent trying to keep the bureaucrats from tangling the sector up in red tape.

Lobbyists for Britain's plant hirers, manufacturers and owners were kept busy trying to rescue the sector from a torrent of legislation.

Plant seems to have a magnetic attraction for new rules but, for every law designed to ensure workers' safety, there seems to be another that causes unnecessary pain.

But even when the intention is worthy enough, often applying the law itself proves complicated.

Currently vexing the industry are the hand-arm vibration rules, which have turned every tool hirer into an expert in advanced mathematics.

Vector sum here, triaxial reading there. Let's face it, most of us thought that 'metres per second per second' was a typing error until these rules were issued.

It doesn't help that tool manufacturers are turning standards into some kind of fashion parade. 'Well you could measure to BS 5349, but that was so yesterday. Why don't you look at EN60745, it's much more f lattering.' All that the industry wants is to stop workers vibrating their hands into irretrievable nerve damage. The danger is that people get confused into being less safe.

The other worrying trend has been the rise of self-appointed monitors of safety. This is best represented by the emergence in London of the clean air lobby group Precis, which is so concerned for our health that they want all construction sites to be virtually emissions-free. To do this they want all plant to have special diesel particulate filters fitted.

The fact that such widespread adaptations have never been done before and that the filters can get so hot they risk burning anyone who goes near them is not impor tant to Precis.

Neither is the fact that it will cost the hirers and contractors a packet, nor that perfectly good phased-in emissions regs have been agreed by the EU. What most worries the industry is that Precis appears to answer to no higher authority ? and power without responsibility always costs money.