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HSE issues warning over drilling guards

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a stark warning to the construction industry on the use of drill guards on piling rigs amid contractor confusion.

Access to dangerous parts of machinery must be prevented by using “fixed guards where practicable” under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

HM inspector of health and safety Sarah Snelling told GE: “There is no alternative to using a drill guard. I can’t think of an example where I would be convinced it is not appropriate. Contractors need to view the guard as part of the rig.”

The most common reason contractors cite for not guarding rigs is that the design requires piling to take place too close to existing structures for guards to be fitted.

“This is not an excuse,” said Snelling. “The piling contractor should refuse to carry out the job. The foundations need to be redesigned to accommodate the guard.”

The drilling guard provision is more onerous than other health and safety legislation where measures must be taken where “reasonably practicable”. Omitting the word “reasonably” gives little room for interpretation.

“The confusion lies in the fact that this regulation was not actively enforced until 12 months ago, when the HSE began its campaign. PUWER has been in force for over a decade now and we did not realise how absolute the drill guard regulation was,” said Abbey Pynford business development manager Paul Creswell. “As restricted piling contractors you are asked to perform the impossible. I suppose we now need to tell designers we cannot.”

Snelling agrees that re-educating consulting engineers is fundamental. “A designer is failing their duty under CDM if they are not taking into account a drill guard in these situations.” And she warned: “Prosecutions will be made.”

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