Dave Joyce National Health, Safety & Environment Officer has issued an urgent letter to all Royal Mail CWU Branches:
Royal Mail has contacted the CWU/HQ Health, Safety and Environment Department today to make us aware of another urgent 'Safety Alert' which could affect the 448 Christmas 'Hired' 7.5T vehicles that are at our sites.
The affected vehicles are Christmas Pressure Period hired 7.5t vehicles with a ‘folding platform tuck under tail lift’ which may not in all cases have in-built ‘Roll Stops’ as are fitted to all Royal Mail Fleet tail lift vehicles.
With the sheer size of the Christmas hire fleet, a considerable number of hire companies are used to provide vehicles and potentially any of these could be affected as we have been unable to ascertain with certainty which models of tail lifts are fitted to each hire vehicle – as such 448 vehicles are potentially affected and attached is a list of such vehicles which may not have the Roll Stops fitted.
If we have hire vehicles without Roll Stops fitted Royal Mail Group are introducing a separate SSoW to enable these to be used during their limited time with us throughout the Christmas peak period.
The hired vehicles concerned are fitted with a short platform variant tail lift which is a standard hired vehicle industry provision tail lift and in many cases is the only option available, in a challenging market in which there is limited hire availability and tough demand competition for these hired vehicles from Royal Mail’s competitors in the run up to Christmas.
Royal Mail Fleet has concentrated efforts on hiring vehicles with Roll Stops fitted (either floor mounted or end tail lift flaps that act as roll stops) wherever possible, including going out to a larger number of hired vehicle suppliers this year.
Royal Mail Fleet has also retained vehicles over Christmas which are due for replacement and they have expedited new vehicles into service in order to reduce the Christmas period hired vehicles demand from offices across the UK.
In order to operate the vehicles concerned in this ‘Safety Alert’ a Risk Assessment has been carried out and a Safe System of Work developed for drivers and loaders to follow which will limit the tail lift to loading only a single York Container at a time, loaded sideways and the use of a small, half-filled sandbag to the front right hand wheel area of the Container as a ‘backup’, supplementary precaution (the sandbag is more effective than chocking or similar arrangements), which will prevent any risk of the York Container on the tail lift moving further out of position or rolling away.
York Containers have a good braking system which locks into position but Royal Mail need to be able to provide a ‘supplementary’ wheel restraint method which then mitigates sufficiently any risk of the York moving and falling from the tail lift.
Retrofitting ‘Roll Stops’ or ‘Hinged Flaps’ to these hired vehicles is obviously not an option and other options such as rubber chocks or runner blocks were not effective or practical when examined and tested.
In summary therefore the Safe Operating Method will be:-
* Load a maximum of one single York Container at a time on the tail lift. Load the York to the right of the tail lift, in a sideways position and apply the brake as normal.
* Apply a half-filled sand bag (weight not exceeding 11kg) to the outside of the right hand front York wheel which will stop the York Container from ‘pivoting’ and rolling off the tail lift. (In tests performed, the sand bag effectively moulds itself into and grips the tail lift surface, staying in position throughout loading/unloading and it effectively and easily stops the York Container moving. This was unlike rubber chocks tested which moved on the tail lift surface.
* The sand bag will remain in place until the last York Container is loaded on the vehicle or alternatively unloaded off the vehicle. The sand bag is then removed and stowed inside the vehicle load space (placed to the left-hand side nearest the internal tail lift controls). The weight of the half-filled sand bag has been Risk Assessed and is within Royal Mail’s manual handling guidance. It will only be removed and stowed from ground level, with a simple, low risk, manual handling technique (avoid twisting).
The sand bags (half-filled filled weight not exceeding 11kg) will be sourced locally from builder’s merchants such as ‘Travis Perkins’.
This short-term contingency arrangement is obviously not ideal, neither is the tail-lift type but the operation of the vehicles and tail-lifts involved can be made safe with the temporary measures being put in place, operating these particular hired 7.5T vehicles, over a short period during the remaining Christmas Pressure period (2.5 weeks approximately) with alternatives being sought but in short supply and big demand by competitors.
Obviously, these vehicles can be used as normal, unchanged for dock to dock operations where a dock leveller exists e.g., Mail Centre to Mail Centre or Mail Centre to Parcel Sorting Centres.
The full contents of Dave's letter includes a number of attachments, obtainable from Branch Union Safety Reps.