a trench cutting machine in action

HSE Warns of Trench Cutter Safety Devices' Misuse

An Aug. 18 Safety Alert warns construction companies and utilities that machines used to cut trenches may be equipped with safety devices that do not function as designed.

The Construction Division of Britain’s Health and Safety Executive posted a Safety Alert that warns construction companies and utilities that machines used to cut trenches may be equipped with safety devices that do not function as designed. The alert says the agency is investigating an incident involving a top cutting machine where a worker died when he became trapped between the cutting drum and the housing. Trench cutting machines are required by an EN standard, EN 474-10, to have a deactivation device that "shall stop machine travel and attachment movement when the operator leaves the operator's station," according to the alert.

For mobile trench cutters, the kill switch is usually connected to the driver's seat, HSE said. Britain's Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 impose a duty on employers to ensure that work equipment and safety devices attached to it are maintained in an efficient state. "Any safety device fitted to the machine should be checked to ensure that it is in full working order and brings the rotation of the drum to a standstill within an appropriate time to prevent access and injury. If it does not, the device should be adjusted or repaired," the alert states. "In addition operators should ensure that the power is disconnected and movement has stopped before approaching the machine to carry out any maintenance on the cutting wheel and pick attachments."

More information on machine safety is available from this HSE page.

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