The following knowledge article was provided and written by HSB.
Premier Guarantee is part of HSB, a specialist insurer in the UK and Ireland which is part of the HSB Group.
Each year, insurance companies pay out millions in claims following significant damage and theft of construction plant and equipment (CPE); either owned, leased or hired. Damage can also occur as a result of accidents due to fire, flood and overturning events, or deliberately through vandalism or arson.
These incidents can also result in personal injury, property damage and business interruption as well as potential delays and increased costs. Many loss events are preventable and occurrences can be reduced through appropriate risk management procedures and activities.
It is important to properly risk assess the work activities and to ensure the selected plant is suitable for its operating environment.
With such a diverse range of CPE available, the specific operating and maintenance instructions for any particular piece of CPE should be referred to. However, many of the loss prevention principles are common to all types of CPE and working locations.
Many occurrences of loss or damage can be traced back to poor management and planning, together with operator competence and insufficient maintenance.
The following elements are key to ensuring CPE is operated safely and without incident.
A safe system of work must be in place prior to deploying any CPE. This should consist of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, describing minimum control measures to be applied when working with or near CPE. Any deviations from the safe system of work should be further risk-assessed before being actioned.
For the more complex tasks (i.e deep excavations, demolitions, complex lifting operations, etc) a comprehensive method statement may be required in addition to a risk assessment.
This process should involve planning of the specific task/activities, selection of suitable CPE, checking adequate maintenance has been carried out, preparation of the working area (working platform, etc), provision of properly-trained and competent supervisory and operating personnel; ensuring all test certificates and inspection reports are available and provision for the safety of all those involved or affected by the operating CPE.
All CPE operators must be adequately trained and competent to operate the selected equipment. Competence should be demonstrated through achieving suitable qualifications recognised by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and/or the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) or equivalent. Checks should be made to ensure qualifications are genuine and up-to-date.
All operators should be able to undertake basic pre-start checks and shutdown procedures. It is recommended that the use of checklists are employed to ensure no aspect is left unaddressed.
All CPE needs to be part of a planned maintenance programme that strictly corresponds to the manufacturers’ requirements.
Proper maintenance will prevent problems arising and ensure the equipment operates efficiently. Inadequate maintenance can cause equipment failure, leading to breakdown and/or fire.
All CPE should be checked over by the operator every day to ensure oil and water levels are correct, and to check for signs of wear or damage.
It is important to keep detailed records of the maintenance and repair history of each piece of CPE, either in electronic or paper form. Copies of job sheets and receipts for all work undertaken should be retained in a dedicated file for each piece of CPE.
Being aware of the typical hazards that can lead to CPE damage is key to ensuring losses are controlled and prevented.
All working environments must be subject to a fire risk assessment, which must be undertaken by a ‘Responsible Person’. The fire risk assessment must be kept up-to-date and the control measures reviewed regularly to minimise the risk to life and property.
Individuals need to be appointed as Fire Marshals or Fire Wardens, and their roles and responsibilities clearly defined. Adequate training in firefighting must be provided.
The following aspects are important in preventing and tackling fires involving CPE:
Planning for the consequences of fire:
Flood is a significant hazard to CPE and can lead to major overhauls and replacement of parts. CPE operating adjacent to rivers, in coastal locations or in deep excavations and tunnels is vulnerable to fluvial, seawater and stormwater flooding; potentially totally submerging the CPE.
Recovery costs can be expensive and can, in some cases, render the CPE a write-off.
All CPE operating in flood-susceptible locations should be subjected to a flood risk assessment. Depending on the nature and exposure of the working environment to flooding, consideration should be given to drawing up a formal Flood Preparedness Plan for all vulnerable working areas.
The plan should capture all flood mitigation measures and emergency procedures and include:
A key mitigation measure is to move all CPE working in potentially vulnerable flood zones, to higher ground prior to the onset of any major storm.
Overturning is a further risk to CPE, particularly where machinery is operating on temporary working surfaces, at dock sides, lakes and reservoirs, at the head of steep slopes or near the ‘danger area’ at the edge of open trenches and excavations.
These areas are more likely to collapse without warning. Overturning CPE can be significantly damaging and cause injury to operators, site personnel and the general public. Any CPE operating in dangerous or constricted working environments should be assisted by competent banksmen and signallers.
Wheel stops should be provided at the edge of shear faces. The mechanism of overturning is often as a result of a failure of the ground or supporting structure beneath the operating CPE.
This is particularly important in connection with tall or load-carrying CPE such as mobile cranes, piling rigs, mobile elevated working platforms, etc.
The following aspects are key to ensuring an adequate working surface is provided:
Sites can be split into a number of categories to highlight the most likely hazards that need to be considered and risk-assessed. More attention is required to establish the strength of the ground where ground conditions are poor or where there is a lack of data on the nature of the subsoil.
Typical categories include:
Before CPE arrives on site, existing information on the nature of the soils should have been studied.
Reference should be made to any existing site investigation reports and particular attention paid to the character of the ground at shallow depths, where CPE will be operating.
An assessment of the ground bearing capacity may be required to determine the size and type of support required for CPE.
This can be calculated with reference to the ground investigation reports and should be carried out by a competent geotechnical engineer.
It should be noted that the presence of water tends to reduce the strength of soils and can lead to a reduced capacity since the initial bearing capacity assessment.
Settlement must be kept to a minimum to avoid eccentricities and additional loading. Level indicators and inclinometers should be employed where feasible. If settlement occurs, then the foundation needs to be reassessed.
A working platform may be required, for example, to provide a designated area over which CPE can travel during its delivery, operation and movement around the construction site.
The design, installation, maintenance and repair of the working platform should be the responsibility of the main contractor, and a temporary works engineer should be consulted on the detailed requirements.
The platform should be free-draining to prevent the build-up of water and, in certain cases, separation/filter membranes may be required underneath.
Appropriate safety factors should be employed in the design and regular checks undertaken to ensure the platform is not disturbed by other construction activity. Excavations, trenches, or other holes dug to facilitate other construction activities must be properly backfilled and repaired to avoid creating soft spots.
The edge of the platform needs to be clearly defined and ground preparation should extend beyond the working area required for the CPE.
Consideration should be given to using a ‘Working Platform Certificate’ to ensure that the correct procedures have been followed, the ground is adequate to support CPE activity and that there are no irregularities that could result in local subsidence and toppling.
Further detailed guidance on working platforms for tracked plant and a sample ‘Working Platform Certificate’ is available from the Federation of Piling Specialists.
Where CPE is provided with outriggers, these should always be fully extended and all the tyres lifted clear of the ground.
The area of the pad attached to the outrigger is small and, therefore, generates high pressures on the ground. The pressure can be reduced by the provision of suitable spreader mats which, depending on the allowable bearing pressure of the subsoil, could consist of timber mats, timber and ply plates, proprietary mats, steel grillages, concrete pads or piles (for high loads in week soil conditions).
Calculations will be required and the temporary works design engineer should be consulted.
Outriggers should always be positioned central to the spreader mats, which should be in contact with the ground over its entire surface area.
Millions of pounds worth of CPE is stolen in the UK every month and less than 10% of it is ever recovered. In many cases, it will be taken overseas in a shipping container within 24 hours. Even with many advanced security systems available, it is still common to find expensive CPE left unprotected on construction sites overnight.
Theft of CPE from any working environment should be the subject of a risk assessment. This should identify the CPE exposed, history of theft in the area, roles and responsibilities and mitigation measures, including physical and electronic security systems.
There should be a particular focus on weekends, night time and holiday periods when sites are most vulnerable.
There should be a clear company security policy and plant security strategy implemented by all supervisors and CPE operators. The security strategy should include both prevention and recovery measures. Key CPE hazard and control measures to consider are as follows.
Types of measures that can be employed include:
All CPE is a potential target for deliberate fire-raising or malicious damage. Fires can spread to other CPE, property or business assets.
Businesses that suffer a major fire may never recover. It is therefore crucial that an effective arson prevention strategy is in place. Arson and vandalism can be caused by external parties but also by disgruntled employees.
Key elements of an arson prevention strategy are as follows:
All mobile CPE has the potential to be involved in collisions with other CPE, property or pedestrians. As well as the impact damage caused, this can also result in injury, overturning, fires, etc.
All mobile CPE should be subjected to a Traffic Management Plan to control the movement of CPE both on and off construction sites and working premises.
Key aspects to consider to avoid collisions include:
Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication (May 2023). Guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. For the most up to date Premier Guarantee technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the Premier Guarantee Technical Manual.