When an inspector calls.

Controls around construction plant and machinery are getting stricter but implementing the right plant management processes can help construction sites be prepared, Ian McKinnon, MD of CHAS

Environmental, air quality and safety concerns have heightened interest in plant management in recent years, with increasing pressure for machinery operators to be able to produce records of maintenance, insurance, and operator checks in an instant.

According to HSE guidance (https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg150.htm) a programme of daily visual checks, regular inspections and servicing schedules should be established for construction plant and machinery and the HSE may want to see evidence that these are in place in the event of an inspection.

Construction managers should also take note, in line with the health & safety sentencing guidelines that came into effect in 2016, health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks and do not require proof of actual harm caused (https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/HS-offences-definitive-guideline-FINAL-web1.pdf) and fines are on the rise.  Since the introduction of the guide-lines the average fine per conviction for a health & safety offence in the construction sec-tor has risen from a pre-guideline average of £57,735, to £107,000 in 2018/19 (https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/construction.pdf).

Stricter emissions standards

Many construction sites are now also subject to Local Authority inspections to check that they are complying with stricter standards governing emissions from non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) (https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quality/nrmm). 

New controls to monitor and reduce emissions from NRMM in specific London areas was brought in at the beginning of 2016 and its geographic scope has now widened to cover the whole of London, with many cities in the UK looking at similar schemes to help to tackle air quality (https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quality/nrmm).

At present the emission controls govern larger plant in the 37 to 560 KW category and don’t cover fixed output generators and similar non-mobile plant but they are set to get progressively tighter over time and by 1 January 2040 only zero emission machinery will be allowed.

Across the rest of the UK, the lack of a national registration scheme makes regulating NRMM difficult but Defra is currently reviewing data on both machinery use and lifespan and has commissioned a research project on NRMM emission controls. The new controls on NRMM in London is a vital component of the Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy and as this is proving so successful then it will almost certainly be adopted by other towns and cities across Britain.

At present many construction companies require site managers to keep site records and check that individual plant complies, and this often involves a lot of paperwork and the potential for records to be incomplete. In the event of an inspection, it can be difficult to access this information which can include inspection certificates and service schedules for each machine. If it is found that a certain machine has slipped through the net it may be 'red carded' and sent off site which can be very costly.

Streamlining plant management

To help plant & machinery operators get a handle on increasing regulatory requirements CHAS has introduced a plant and machinery management tool, which can help organisations streamline plant management processes. It enables simplified tracking of all aspects of plant maintenance and compliance, including the all-important emissions data, test results and certification for each machine.

Ian McKinnon, MD of CHAS explains: "Traditionally many contractors have grappled with manual or disparate electronic systems to keep track of plant and equipment which has made auditing challenging and carried with it the anxiety of finding incomplete or inaccurate records. CHAS Plant transforms this process enabling anyone to access up-to-date and comprehensive records in an instant while revolutionising maintenance and work-flow.” 

Apart from making sure the contractor complies with legislation, it also gives a snapshot of all the plant and machinery on the books including records of maintenance and insurance as well as operator checks. These can be accessed by anyone who is given authorisation and, in the case of inspections, it can provide the inspectors with upfront information before they leave the office. It is then just a matter of checking vehicle ID plates and making sure no rogue machines are operating.

Increasing regulatory obligations like those governing non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) don’t have to be a burden, having the right systems in place can reassure all parties that they will be able to access the right information in an instant should an inspector call.

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