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About the Suction and Vacuum Excavator Interest Group (SAVE)

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Suction and Vacuum Excavator Interest Group (SAVE)


This interest group was formed in February 2016 as Suction/Vacuum Excavators have become prolific items of plant in recent years and particularly suited to carry out excavations around buried services and other sensitive areas where a hand dig-only requirement exists. Hirers and contractors have invested in these specialised machines but as with all plant, requires a trained and competent operator to safely and effectively carry out the work, and for an effective safety management system to be in place.


This specialist industry is still new compared to more traditional plant operations, meaning the operator training element was in general limited amongst individual hirers or contractors who have either set up their own in-house training regimes, or through an importers-delivered training programme.


Although a training syllabus for certification had been devised through the utility sector, this was not widespread amongst construction and variations in working practices, and the perceptions of what constitutes the required skill set for the operator, existed.


To combat this issue, a Yorkshire-based hirer approached the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) with a request to devise a category with a supporting set of training and testing standards to ensure consistency of safe working skills within the industry. CPCS agreed to undertake the work and formed a working group in early 2014, which consisted of hirers, importers and contractors who have subsequently developed a training syllabus and test criteria for the category. It has six endorsements relating to the chassis type and suction hose support and with the development work being complete, the category was made available from mid-June 2016.


During 2015, a tragic accident resulted in the death of the operator of a truck-mounted unit which galvanised the industry into seeking safe practices and the management of suction and vacuum excavator operations. In order to prevent such an event occurring again, a number of voluntary meetings of contractors and hirers were subsequently held from which an agreement was made to form a Special Interest Group and includes Owners, Hirers, Manufacturers, Clients, CITB and health & safety professionals. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also as an advisor to legislative and regulatory-related requirements.


Pat Burke, Managing Director of Force One Ltd acts as current Chair of the group and the group are devising good practice guides for a range of areas including a safe use guidance as their first project which has now been launched. This is to be followed by a new publication which will contain more comprehensive information on dealing with hazardous substances such as asbesto and radioactive materials.




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