Bin lorries dangerously shaky, say EU law-makers

by Published Thu 21 May 2009 12:16
Bad vibrations: New EU laws say sitting in bin lorries could harm workers

Councils face a potential £22 million repair bill to upgrade their bin lorries to comply with EU law and minimise their vibration - reducing an apparent injury risk to staff.

Local authorities have been warned they face prosecution if crews of refuse trucks are continually exposed to the vibration from speed bumps, pot holes or even an idling engine.

Now they face a massive refit bill to improve the suspensions and cab seats of their bin lorry fleets to dampen the bounce and remove the shake, rattle and roll.

It is estimated there are more than 8,750 bin lorries emptying the country's bins and the upgrade cost of each truck is estimated to be at least £2,500, meaning the total bill to eliminate outlawed vibration from the fleet will be £21.8 million.

The maintenance programme includes the installation of new shock absorbers and hydraulic-cushioned seats.

Researchers at the UK's leading transport development facility, Millbrook, say the new EU Directive, called the Control of Noise and Control of Vibration Regulations or ‘Vibrating Directive’, comes into effect in July next year.

It aims to protect staff from harmful vibrations from vehicles and plant machines and is devised to eradicate Whole Body Vibration (WBV), which relates to vibration from industrial machines and vehicles.

Millbrook's business development manager Bruce Lornie said refuse operators who sit in trucks or drive them can be be affected by WBV, which can increase the health risk to the spine, neck, shoulders and, in extreme cases, the digestive system.

And he warned that unless councils start preparing for the new legislation they face a wave of litigation claims from employees.

“The councils have to have their refuse trucks tested because the health problems derived from vibrating engines is a growing area of concern,” he said.

“The problem occurs when people are continually exposed to vibrations of a vehicle as part of their role. This can happen when in transit or even when the engine is idling and in nearly all cases, the vibrations are either transmitted through the seat of the vehicle and into the body via the buttocks or through the footwell of the vehicle and into the body via the feet.”

Lornie said Millbrook has so far worked with 40 local authorities in the UK, and added: “As part of their employer’s duty of care, a risk assessment must be carried out on all equipment that creates WBV.

“Once tests are done, remedial work can be carried out on a vehicle to ensure its compliance, or working practices altered for personnel."

He explained that the seat nearest the wheel that is closest to the engine is often the worst for producing vibrations and bin lorry drivers who typically work for eight-hour shifts are especially at risk.

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