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Quick-hitch safety under the spotlight

Quick-hitch manufacturers are meeting with the Health and Safety Executive next month in a bid to ease the concerns of contractors over the devices.

Quick-hitch manufacturers are meeting with the Health and Safety Executive next month in a bid to ease the concerns of contractors over the devices.

The group will also meet with the British Standards Institution to discuss changes to hitch standards that can reduce the risk of operator error.

There is concern over the use of semi-automatic devices, where the attachment can be fitted from within the cab but where the safety pin is fitted manually. Serious accidents involving these devices have led to some groups calling for them to be banned.

A number of contractors are insisting that plant operators show evidence that they have been trained in the use of quick hitches, or risk being turned away from site.

The CPCS operator scheme is under pressure from contractors and hirers to include specific training in its courses as soon as possible. There is no specific training in its current foundation operator courses.

Construction Plant-hire Association chief executive Colin Wood said: “Users should think carefully before using the semi-automatic quick hitch. Training of operators is key.”

Three fatalities in the past 18 months have been attributed to quick hitches, including one at Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire on 1 October where a man was hit by a falling excavator bucket.

A source said: “The HSE does not appear to have collected enough information to say for definite whether it is a design problem or due to operator error, or indeed whether there is any link between the accidents.”

There is also pressure on the HSE to release guidance on safe use of the hitches. Mr Wood said: “The industry is looking for a clear statement.”