10 essentials of mobile equipment safety

Mobile equipment is defined in Part 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) as “a wheeled or tracked vehicle which is engine or motor powered, together with attached or towed equipment, but not a vehicle operated on fixed rails or tracks.” In food processing and manufacturing environments, the major type of mobile equipment used is the forklift. Other mobile equipment found in the workplace can include farm-type tractors and trailers, front-end loaders and ATVs. It’s important to know the safety essentials when operating and maintaining mobile equipment.
1.    Equipment design and procurement
In many instances, the wrong type or model of mobile equipment is purchased for the workplace. Mobile equipment must be purchased with consideration given to what needs to be accomplished with it and where it is intended to be used. Capacity, maneuvering ability, size and dimensions, whether it is electric or fuel powered; options, equipment and compliance with applicable standards, are all issues which must be considered before purchasing mobile equipment.

2.    Inventory of mobile equipment
All mobile equipment in the workplace should be identified and listed in an equipment inventory — either in hard-copy or electronic. The intent of the inventory is to identify mobile equipment through serial numbers and track maintenance, incidents and finally, disposal of each piece of equipment.

3.    General operating requirements
General operating requirements for mobile equipment can include issues such as location of fueling or recharging equipment, requirements for seating and operator restraint, equipment speed limits, care of unattended equipment and loading of trucks or railcars. Employers must develop and implement such requirements, as well as instruct operators in them.

4.    Site-specific safety requirements
Every employer that uses mobile equipment in a workplace must identify the hazards associated with the use of that equipment and ensure that specific controls are implemented to control those hazards. Site-specific issues to be considered include: width of travel lanes, material storage within workplace and traffic patterns in the workplace.

5.    Operator training and qualification
All operators of mobile equipment are required to be adequately trained and evaluated by a qualified supervisor or instructor in the operation of any mobile equipment which they are required to operate. This training must be in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements such as legislation, policies and guidelines and referenced standards such as CSA B335-94 Industrial Lift Truck Operator Training or B335-04 Safety Standard for Lift Trucks and the equipment manufacturer’s specifications.

Where no specific requirements for operator training can be found, an employer should ensure the following items are covered in operator training:

a.    Capabilities and limitations of the specific piece of mobile equipment
b.    Basic maintenance requirements
c.    Pre-trip inspection requirements
d.    Operating requirements of mobile equipment including safe loading and unloading
e.    Use of required personal protective equipment and apparel

Mobile equipment operators should be regularly evaluated on the operation of the mobile equipment they use and retrained as required by legislation and applicable standards.

6.    Operator medical and physical fitness requirements
CSA standard B335-04 references basic requirements in regards to medical and physical fitness for lift truck operators that could be reasonably applied to any mobile equipment operator.

These requirements are:

a.    Visual acuity to view all signs, instructions and labels necessary for the specific job;
b.    Ability to differentiate between colours if essential for the specific job;
c.    Peripheral vision as necessary for the specific job;
d.    Good judgement of space including depth, height and distance; and,
e.    If required, use of corrective lenses while operating the lift truck

a.    Ability to hear all warning signals within the workplace as necessary for the specific job;
b.    If required, use of hearing aids while operating the lift truck.

a.    Absence of physical impairments, neurological disorders or other health disorders that can affect the safe operation of the lift truck; and,
b.    Sufficient strength, endurance, agility and coordination to meet the demands of the job, which can include movement of the neck, upper and lower limbs and trunk.

The assessment or evaluation to determine compliance with these requirements must be carried out by a doctor, nurse or other person who, by training, has the ability to carry out such a determination.

7.    Inspection and maintenance requirements
Mobile equipment is required to be inspected and maintained in accordance with applicable legislation, standards and manufacturer’s specifications. Operators should carry out a documented pre-use inspection prior to operation of any piece of equipment. In addition, qualified personnel should carry out documented maintenance procedures in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications for all mobile equipment. This inspection and maintenance documentation must be readily available for review by mobile equipment operators and service personnel.

8.    Safe work procedures
A safe work procedure is required to be developed by the employer for each type of mobile equipment that is used in the workplace. The operator of each type of mobile equipment must be instructed and evaluated in the use of the applicable safe work procedure.

9.    Pedestrian safety
Pedestrian safety must be ensured whenever there is a risk of being struck by mobile equipment. The employer is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment and implementing appropriate controls to minimize any risk to pedestrians in the workplace.

10.    Program review
A mobile equipment program should be reviewed and, if required, revised on a regular basis to ensure that the program is current and comprehensive. A review should take place each time a new piece of mobile equipment is introduced to the workplace or otherwise at an interval of no more than two years.

Further information on this topic can be found at WorkSafeBC and at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety or you can contact a Safety Advisor at FIOSA-MIOSA for assistance with mobile equipment issues.
This article originally appeared in the newsletter, Spotlight on Work Safety, a quarterly publication by the FIOSA-MIOSA Safety Alliance of B.C.