As in any risk assessment, the health and safety manager must consider potential hazards and minimise their affects. For most facilities the weighbridge is the first and often the last place that a heavy goods vehicle will visit. They are a key area because at peak times they can cause a bottleneck and drivers may be tempted to leave their vehicles to stretch their legs.
With health and safety in mind, what should you consider for a weighbridge installation?
The HSE states that access to a weighbridge should be simple and straightforward. Clear signage should indicate where the weighbridge is and outline what drivers must do. Traffic should always be controlled to ensure correct queuing. Access barriers, traffic lights and digital cameras can all be used as part of such a system to help control traffic flow, prevent accidents and to monitor safety.
If you operate a busy site consider installing separate weighbridges for incoming and outgoing traffic. This helps establish a clear one-way traffic flow, avoids confusion and potentially halves the number of vehicles at each weighbridge.
For the weighbridge installation the aim is to create a zero risk environment for the driver with no slips or falls or pedestrian collisions with traffic. In addition any means of speeding up the weighing process will lead to smaller queues and less chance of an accident occurring.
The best answer is to design a system where there is no need for the driver to leave their cab. There are several potential solutions.
Installing driver-operated consoles at cab height allows the driver to enter data using either a swipe card and/or a keypad or touchscreen. Such systems must be simple and intuitive to use, have large graphical characters and a clear display. Modern day systems should also have a multilingual interface to avoid potential misunderstanding from foreign drivers.
Other technology uses automatic number plate recognition to make data collection simpler, more accurate and faster. Typically a vehicle will approach the weighbridge and the camera will record its registration number. When the system recognises the vehicle it will be weighed and processed.
There may still be times when the driver leaves his or her cab, so it is still essential to provide a safe area onto which to dismount. By installing an extra wide weighbridge, you will provide plenty of room for dismounting onto a flat non-slip surface. As part of your general housekeeping keep the surface clear from debris to avoid slips and trips.
Pathways and steps should be of good construction and have handrails and safety barriers. Again keep them free from ice, mud and other contaminants. The HSE also suggests paying attention to lighting levels and painting step nosings with high visibility paint. Consider also footscrapers/scrubbers to minimise transfer of mud.
On a completely separate point, sites that deal with materials such as hazardous waste may need to consider whether the build up of dust or gas is a potential hazard.
Generally, areas above the weighbridge are well ventilated, but this is not always the case below the deck. Dust can collect and gases and fumes are often heavier than air and will sink into these areas causing a potentially explosive atmosphere. The ATEX regulations now cover ignition sources from non-electrical sources, such as sparks from contact between metals.
If this is the case then you should install an ATEX compliant weighbridge, or explore how a retrofit service may make existing structures compliant. In addition, make sure that there is good ventilation, control the speed of the vehicle mounting the deck and do not use metal tools.
Weighbridges are an integral part of many industrial sites. They are vital for the data collection and management demanded by the environment agency. A well -designed system will also keep the health and safety executive happy by reducing vehicle queues and making sure that the driver stays in the safety of his or her cab.