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INADVERTENT OPERATION OF EXCAVATOR CONTROLS

Manufacturers may be under-utilising expertise to address IOOC risks

HSE data reveals a “significant number of incidents where serious injuries and fatalities have occurred by inadvertent operation of excavator controls (IOOC)”.

In the five-year period to March 2010 there was one fatality and eleven major injury accidents involving IOOC. In addition, there is extensive evidence (particularly from large construction contractors) that IOOC is a significant issue.

HSE therefore commissioned a study to gather evidence in the form of views, experiences and perceptions of both excavator operators, and subject matter experts working for both excavator manufacturers and for a major training provider.

The aims of the research were to:

  • Gain insight into the differing ways IOOC might occur;
  • Identify the full range of control measures to prevent or mitigate the impact of IOOC; and
  • Seek expert and end-user views on the likely efficacy of different design control measures.

The study also sought to test a number of assumptions concerning IOOC, including: that IOOC is an important safety issue in the construction industry; and that there are a number of viable and usable technical solutions in addition to the standard safety lever approach to IOOC prevention.

Main Conclusions

Research Report RR1000 Inadvertent operation of controls in excavator plant – insight, analysis and recommendations for prevention by design, contains the following conclusions:

  1. Operators perceived IOOC as a problem;
  2. The operator view was that IOOC risk could be reduced through improved excavator design and the introduction of new technology;
  3. Subject matter experts thought that possibly more could be done to better manage the risks of IOOC using new technical solutions;
  4. Operators did not see usability, productivity and reliability issues as being barriers to introducing design and technical changes aimed at reducing IOOC risks;
  5. Some manufacturer based subject matter experts associated the risk of IOCC with operator error and context of use, rather than being additionally linked to control and system design;
  6. Manufacturers are possibly under-utilising the potential of technological, ergonomic and human factors expertise to address IOOC risks.

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