With 21 workers in the motor vehicle repair industry killed in the last five years, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) want to alert businesses of the potential dangers of working under vehicles, particularly those which use air suspension where the vehicle isn’t properly supported during maintenance.
People who may be affected include those who may carry out, or are accountable for, work on vehicles with air suspension systems, including:
- motor vehicle repair workshops
- roadside repair and recovery
- client sites where this work takes place.
As a responsible person in your business, you also need to consider whether your workers are likely to check under vehicles in other circumstances – for example, in the event of a breakdown.
What’s the issue?
Lots of serious incidents and accidents involving air suspension systems on vehicles have happened recently, which has led the HSE to issue a safety alert. Even though it focuses on air suspension systems, any insufficiently supported vehicle can pose a risk.
The two main causes of serious incidents are inadequately supported vehicles and unexpected failures in air suspension systems, leading to vehicles lowering suddenly.
What do you need to do?
- Risk assess driving and maintenance activities to ensure that workers know not to work on unsupported vehicles.
- Avoid undertaking repair work at the roadside or third-party premises or, where this isn’t possible, keep it to a minimum. Take the vehicle to a competent and well-equipped repair facility.
- Workers undertaking repairs need to prevent the motion of air suspension systems by following the manufacturer’s vehicle maintenance guidelines. This may include: deflating the system or using suitably rated props or stands to stop the chassis of the vehicle lowering (refer to manufacturer’s recommendations for safe locations to place props and stands). Air suspension should never be relied on to hold a vehicle’s journey height or function at the same time as people are working beneath the vehicle, or could become trapped by it.
- Remove the air from the air suspension system before beginning work on it.
- Isolate the air suspension system through physical disconnection of the air supply before working on it. Please do not simply clamp air suspension pipework as a method to quickly isolate the system as it may not remain secure.
- If you’re working close to a lifting axle it must be isolated as it can move without notice.
- Carry out a visual check of the configuration and condition of the air suspension system.
- For leak testing, visually check the empty system then inflate and elevate to full travel. Leave a brief duration of time, then inspect for leaks by walking around the outside of the vehicle listening out for any leaks. Should damage be identified, exhaust the air from the system before you carry out repairs.
Please see the HSE’s original alert here.
Please note: Vehicle suspension systems may differ. Work and repairs should be carried out to the manufacturer’s specifications and guidelines.
Got any questions?
If you’d like to talk about any of the above with one of our experts, simply call your 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.