In November 2009, because of continued fatalities, serious injuries and near hits involving the unsafe use of quick hitches, the Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group issued a Safety Notice, reinforcing the guidance issued to contractors earlier in the year. This also clarifies other issues concerning safe use of quick hitches, recognising that employers have their own safe systems of work for the use of quick hitches. It is recommended that all employers use the safety notice as a check list to review their own procedures.
Click here to download the Press Release and Safety Notice>>
The third edition of the Best Practice Guidance was published in February 2013. This includes Key Points for Operators and for Supervisors.
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Types of quick hitch
The Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group does not recommend or favour any type of quick hitch, whether manual, semi automatic, or any type of fully automatic. There are two reasons for this.
First, all types of quick hitch can be safely used by competent people within a safe system of work. This will involve planning, training, instruction, communication, supervision and maintenance.
Secondly, all types of quick hitch may fail if they are not used and maintained correctly.
Legal status of quick hitches
Concerning the legal status of different types, HSE have not banned the use of existing semi-automatic quick hitches. Since October 2008 there has been a voluntary cessation of supply of new semi-automatic quick hitches by manufacturers, but any ban on existing semi-automatic quick hitches would require regulatory changes and HSE do not have any plans for this.
As the regulator, HSE has considered the widest implications of regulatory and enforcement action, and decided upon the most appropriate course to be taken to achieve the best level of safety, not just for large contractors, but also individual owner operators and those in other industries, such as agriculture.
The outcome is that all types of existing quick hitch can continue to be used: the type selected must be determined by the employer, taking into account the competencies within their organisation.
Frequently asked questions
1. Is there a "fail safe" type of quick hitch?
There may be a perception that certain types of quick hitch always fail to safety. This is not the case: all types of quick hitch may fail to danger if they are not used within a suitable Safe System of Work.
2. Can fully automatic operation be combined with a manually inserted pin?
If an auxiliary passive manually inserted pin is properly engineered and approved by the manufacturer to fit on a fully automatic quick hitch, this is legal and acceptable. However, the maintenance and inspection regimes for the fully automatic quick hitch still have to be adhered to.