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Surveillance saves lives

In the second in a series of articles from FEM Member organisation the Association of Loading and Elevating Equipment Manufacturers (ALEM), John Meale , managing director of Thorworld Industries, explains why more effective surveillance in the materials handling industry would safeguard jobs and even save lives.

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The Fédération Européenne de la Manutention (FEM) – the European Materials Handling Federation – is leading calls for more effective surveillance in the materials handling industry.

Unless regular inspections are introduced, EU Directives and Regulations will continue to be undermined as counterfeit and non- compliant machinery floods the market from both inside and outside of the EU.

There are 17 EU Directives and Regulations that apply to the materials handling industry. These ensure the design and construction of safe, sustainable, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and ergonomic materials handling equipment.

FEM prioritises safety and has a tradition of drafting technical

Adhering to these directives is law for any EU-based manufacturer, but comes at a cost.

recommendations complement these Directives and Regulations. Most recently, FEM has worked with the EU Commission to draw up guidelines on the new EU Machinery Directive, which came into force in December 2009 and sets stricter safety standards to help reduce accidents relating to the use of machinery.

Adhering to these directives is law for any EU-based manufacturer, but comes at a cost to both the manufacturer and the customer.

For example, my company, Thorworld Industries, manufactures a wide range of materials handling equipment to increase efficiency and safety in and around the loading bay, such as dock shelters and seals, dock levellers, loading docks, yardramps and safety aids and accessories. We invest a considerable amount of time, expertise and money to ensure that our products fully comply with all the EU Directives and Regulations and are safe to use.

However, many products are imported from countries where regulations are less stringent and while those destined for EU countries are legally required to meet its legislative standards, some unfortunately, do not. We need a level playing field.

Counterfeiting – products purporting to meet the standards when they do not – is a growing problem. These non- conforming products can be manufactured – and sold – for significantly less than their European counterparts, making them appealing to customers. This unfair competition puts jobs at risk across the UK and Europe.

More importantly, many don’t meet even basic health and safety requirements, endangering the lives of workers using them on a daily basis.

Examples can be found throughout the materials handling industry. There are imported mobile elevating work platforms in Ireland that don’t comply with the Machinery Directive. There are tower cranes with imported girder mast elements from China, where poor welding has affected the stability or where bolts have sheared off, posing a significant threat to workers, individuals and property.

I’ve seen imported ramps made from the wrong grade of steel without the correct support structures that have just buckled under the weight of a fork lift truck – putting the operator at risk of serious injury or even death.

These breaches are only identified Adhering to these directives is law for any EU-based manufacturer, but comes at a cost when something goes wrong, by which time it’s too late. There’s been a huge amount of legislation applicable to the materials handling industry introduced over the last decade and we feel it’s time to focus on implementation and proper application rather than the creation of new requirements. This must be done through the introduction of effective surveillance and enforcement.

We understand this will require significant investment and a high level of expertise and training. As a result, FEM is proposing that a solution could lie in the financing and appointment of industry experts who could assist competent authorities.

It is also important for end-users to understand that they are responsible for ensuring products they purchase comply with the regulations – if a worker is hurt due to non-compliant products the company directors could be subject to a fine or even jail.

So, when buying a product, it is essential to not only look at whether it meets your needs but check the credentials of the company that has manufactured it. For instance, Thorworld is BSI registered with CE mark certification, it has been ISO 9001 accredited since 1992 and has achieved the latest ISO 9001:2008 international quality management standard. All our equipment bears the CE mark and comes with a 12-month warranty, meaning our customers can be safe in the knowledge our products are fully compliant.

Finally, compare the specification of the product you’re looking at against standard market rates – like anything, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.