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Mechanical handling at events: What you need to consider

Mechanical handling at events: What you need to consider

The events industry in the UK is a big deal: it's worth £42.3 billion and supports 570,000 jobs, according to figures from Eventbrite. There are approximately 1.3 million events hosted in the UK every year, and for each one there is typically a lot of planning, setting up, and packing away that needs to take place.

Setting up events often requires transporting large loads from a depot, warehouse, or place of work to the venue. Heavy objects like large screens, exhibition stands, and stage gear can be more difficult to move, while sizeable quantities of goods can be equally as troublesome. With essential equipment and supplies needing loading, moving, and unloading, you need to ensure manual handling risks for your staff are minimised so that you fulfil your duty of care (as set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974).

This is where mechanical handling aids can make a big difference to setting-up and packing events away once they're over. They can help to reduce the risk of injury by easing the burden on manual handlers and removing the need to work at a height. In addition, they will make each process much more efficient for a quicker event turnaround. But what type of equipment can prove to be useful?

Choosing mechanical handling equipment for events

Mechanical handling equipment comes in many shapes and forms, but some are best suited for use during event set-up. Let's take a closer look:

  • Vehicle-mounted cranes: They are a great choice for event transport thanks to their mobility. A lorry with a crane installed can assist your staff when they are loading, transport the cargo to the event venue, and then be used to unload it. The same can be done on the return journey with any equipment or leftover supplies. They can also play a role in the placement and set-up of large objects like screens, sound systems, and exhibition stands.
  • Vehicle-mounted hydraulic loading platforms: These are hydraulically powered platform lifts installed at the rear or side doors of vans or pick-ups. These aids can be used on the go, giving them great versatility for events. A loading platform will provide a stable foundation for lifting heavy consignments, such as roll cages or pallets, allowing for easier access.
  • Goods lifts: These aids are lifting platforms that are installed in key areas, such as delivery bays or cellar doors, to make loading and unloading goods easier and safer. While this equipment is not mobile, it can provide great assistance with unloading and loading at venues. If you are setting up the event, choosing a venue with a goods lift can make a huge difference. Likewise, if you run an event venue, offering a loading bay, lightwell or cellar lift can make your venue much more appealing to organisers as they will be able to move exhibition items in and out more safely and productively.

What to consider when using manual handling equipment for an event

Though mechanical handling equipment can bring many advantages to your event set-up, there are a few key considerations that you need to make to ensure you're using the machinery correctly and to its full potential. Some of these are:

Are you using the equipment to limit manual handling as much as possible?

We've mentioned how mechanical handling equipment can help to cut the risks attached to manual handling during event set-up, but you need to make sure that it is being used in a way that makes this possible.

Furthermore, health and safety legislation and regulations must be followed by both you and your employees. These stipulate that risky manual handling tasks should be avoided wherever possible: employers must provide equipment to reduce risk where applicable, and employees must make full use of any system that is put in place.

It’s also essential to provide comprehensive training in the use of your mechanical handling equipment so your staff can use it fully. You should also carry out regular checks to make sure it is being used regularly.

Are you limiting working at height as much as possible?

Setting up an event can often require a lot of work from a height. Tasks can range from unloading supplies from the back of a lorry to setting up large screens or building an exhibition stand.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 set out the rules that employers and employees should follow when faced with such jobs. As an employer, you need to ensure work is planned, supervised, and carried out by a competent person (see HSE guidance on this), as well as provide the right equipment. Your employees have a responsibility to take care of themselves and comply with the health and safety rules you introduce.

As part of your working at a height policy, you can often reduce the risk attached by introducing mechanical handling equipment. For example, a hydraulic lifting platform can be used to load or unload a van using controls at ground level, so workers don't have to clamber on and off the vehicle. A vehicle-mounted crane with a long boom could also be used to lift objects, instead of using a ladder or platform that would require staff to climb and work at height.

Regardless of whether you regularly set up events or host them, taking the time to assess what lifting equipment your staff could use before you invest is definitely worth it. You will then need to make sure you provide adequate training and ensure your employees know you require them to use the equipment to comply with the Working at Height Regulations.

Are your staff adequately trained to use mechanical handling equipment?

If you plan to use mechanical lifting equipment during event set-up, it’s important that you make sure all the employees involved in its use are well-trained. Not only will this help to ensure your staff's safety, but it will protect anyone else who is around at the time, such as the general public, staff from other companies (if it is an exhibition, festival, or the like) or those from the venue itself.

There are two main pieces of legislation that dictate how your staff should be trained to use mechanical handling equipment: the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The requirements of both need to be considered if you are looking to integrate handling equipment into your event set-up operation.

LOLER is an act that focuses on lifting equipment, including planning and organising safe lifts, and the operation of the equipment by employees who are sufficiently trained. The regulations dictate that you must have a competent person on hand to plan and supervise a lifting job, so you need to make sure that this is the case when setting up. For further information about LOLER's requirements, as well as advice on how to meet them, our own guide to LOLER is well worth a read.

You also need to abide by PUWER, which ensures that the equipment used by employers is safe to use at all times. This act is similar to LOLER in that it requires all employees to be adequately trained to ensure health and safety in its use. You can find out more about this act and its regulations in our guide to PUWER.

For optimal safety training for your staff using lifting equipment, we recommend that you enrol them on an Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers & Importers (ALLMI) accredited course. ALLMI is the UK’s only Trade Association exclusively dedicated to companies involved in the manufacture, importation, servicing, testing and use of lorry loaders, and their training is one of the best steps that you can take to help ensure crane operators are both competent and confident using lifting equipment.

Have you provided staff with the right Personal Protective Equipment?

Another consideration that you need to make for the use of mechanical handling equipment at events is whether your staff are correctly kitted out in the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job. This equipment includes items like hi-vis wear and hardhats used to ensure there is a high level of safety at work.

This is another area that is governed by legislation, in this case the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which dictates that as an employer you have a responsibility to provide appropriate safety equipment to your employees (free of charge).

PPE that you should provide is:

  • A hardhat
  • Safety goggles/glasses
  • High-vis jacket
  • Gloves
  • Work boots

The act also places responsibility on your employees for the use, storage, and maintenance of this safety equipment. They also need to report any breakage or loss of these items to you as their employer so they can be fixed or replaced.

Is your manual handling equipment from a reputable manufacturer?

Should you plan on using mechanical handling equipment for event set-up, it's vital that you invest in quality machinery to make sure it will be up to task, while maintaining a high level of safety.

The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 (also known as the Machine Directive) sets out what the essential healthy and safety criteria are that all machines on the market must meet.

Equipment that meets these regulations will be:

  • safe when supplied;
  • shipped with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English; and
  • comes with CE marking.

A Declaration of Conformity is a document produced by the manufacturer of the equipment to declare that it is fully compliant with any regulations that apply to it. They will also apply a CE mark to the body of the machine to declare that it complies with the law.

When it comes to selecting and purchasing new mechanical handling equipment, you, as a user, have the following obligations, which are set out in the PUWER regulations (see our PUWER guide):

  • You must check the machine is CE marked.
  • You must check it comes with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English.
  • You must check whether there are any obvious faults with the machinery before first use.

With this in mind, when selecting equipment for use by your employees, it's important that you invest in machinery from a manufacturer that meets all of these requirements so that you can remain compliant with PUWER regulations. For more information, the HSE has a guide to choosing machinery that is well worth a read.

Here at Penny Hydraulics, all of our machinery, including our cranes, loading platforms, and goods lifts, meet the industry standards set out by the Machine Directive, coming with all documentation and a CE mark. This means that you can be confident that any mechanical handling equipment that you order with us will be up to the job and ready for use.

Is your mechanical handling equipment well maintained?

While any mechanical handling equipment that is CE marked when you first take delivery of it is likely to be in good working order, you need to make sure that any machinery is regularly serviced and examined as you continue to use it for event set-up. This will ensure that there is less chance of you, your staff, or the public being put at risk due to defects caused by gradual wear and tear of the equipment.

LOLER and PUWER regulations have strict requirements that dictate how you should go about checking and servicing each piece of machinery, and you should be sure to stick to these at all times to make sure you are within the law.

LOLER requires a 'thorough examination' — a detailed inspection of equipment by a competent person — to be carried out before its first use, then at 12-month (or less) intervals. An examination also needs to be undertaken every time a new part is fitted or when the machinery is removed and re-fitted to the original chassis.

PUWER has guidelines for when inspections should be carried out and how they should be recorded, too. Read our guides to LOLER and PUWER to find out more about how you will need to maintain your machinery.

You can save a lot of time and effort by investing in mechanical handling equipment from a manufacturer who can also provide specialised servicing, as well as regular, lawful inspections. Here at Penny Hydraulics, we offer a planned maintenance agreement that will ensure that maintenance and statutory testing of your Penny machinery is taken care of. We have a nationwide team of engineers who can provide swift service and replacement parts from our factory too.

Are your vehicles overburdened?

Though not directly related to the use of a crane or lifting platform mounted on your vehicle, it's important to consider how much extra weight mechanical handling equipment can add and what your vehicle's maximum payload capacity will be as a result.

This is an important factor to consider when using your lifting aid to load up a van or truck for transport, as you will need to be careful not to exceed the limits and cause damage to the vehicle.

To work out the weight you can feasibly load onto your vehicle, you will need to find out:

  • Maximum authorised mass: Total weight when at maximum capacity (including the vehicle itself, fuel, cargo, and passengers). This figure is usually available in the owner's manual.
  • Kerb weight: Weight when empty of cargo or passengers, but includes a full tank of fuel and other essential fluids.
  • The weight of your lifting equipment: This should be listed in your equipment's manual.

You will then need to subtract the kerb weight from the maximum authorised mass to get the payload weight, which is the carrying capacity of your vehicle. Finally, you can further subtract the weight of your lifting equipment to find out how much is left for cargo and passengers.

This figure can then be used as a guide to work out what you can carry to an event and to plan how many trips will be required to transport all of your equipment and supplies.

If you take all of the considerations discussed in this article on board, you will be able to incorporate mechanical handling equipment into your event set-up operations without a hitch. Then, you'll be able to benefit from increased productivity, faster turnaround, and lower risk to your staff.

Should you have any questions about this guide or need advice about choosing the right machinery for your business, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at Penny Hydraulics.

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