In recent times we have noticed considerable confusion in relation to the safety requirements for things like; storage racking, lifting chains & slings, forklift attachments and other lifting devices.
Essentially, every structure or piece of equipment which lifts or supports loads above ground level must be rated for the load and have the safe working limit (SWL) clearly displayed.
Note: Sometimes you will see the term “working load limit (WLL)” used on newer lifting equipment, however, the current harmonised WHS Regulations still uses the term “safe working limit” (SWL) e.g. in Reg. 219, so either term is acceptable until regulations prescribe a single term to be used.
In this article we focus on the key placarding requirements only for:
- Mezzanine storage areas;
- Storage racking;
- Cranes & hoists;
- Lifting slings and accessories; and
- Forklift attachments.
Mezzanine Storage Areas
We are often asked “is this mezzanine safe for the load placed there?” There is no immediate or universal answer to this question unless the mezzanine is placarded with its safe load capacity e.g “XXkg/sqm”, or the structural drawings for the structure are available and indicate the load carrying capacity for the structure.
Therefore, every mezzanine should have displayed in a prominent place the safe load carrying capacity in order to avoid inadvertent over-loading or unnecessary questions about its appropriateness for the storage. If there is any doubt about a mezzanine platform you should consult an appropriate engineer for clarification of safety and load limit.
Most storage racking in the workplace these days are made of cold formed thin section steel legs and beams. There is an Australian Standard (AS 4084 Steel storage racking) which governs the design, construction and loading of steel storage racking.
Every set of storage racking should have displayed in a conspicuous position (e.g. end of each bay) a permanent corrosion-resistant plaque at least 125mm long x 250mm high with lettering at least 25mm high about 2m above floor level with the following:
i) Permissible working unit load limit;
ii) Permissible total working unit load for each pallet beam level;
iii) Permissible total working unit load for each bay;
iv) Designer’s name;
v) Manufacturer’s name, supplier’s name and trademark (if any) and installation date;
vi) Maximum distance from base plate to first beam level and maximum distance between first and second beam levels.
In addition, every set of racking must have readily available in the workplace, the racking configuration e.g. “as-built” drawings and specifications, including any special damage limitations.
Cranes & Hoists
All cranes and hoists must have their safe working limit (SWL) clearly displayed on:
- The supporting structural member(s);
- The hoist or crane mechanism; and
- Any associated lifting slings or chains etc (see following section).
Note: The crane or hoist must not have displayed a higher SWL than the supporting structural member(s). If structural member(s) have lower capacity than the crane or hoist then the crane or hoist should be “de-rated” and the lower capacity displayed on the hoist to avoid risk of being accidentally over-loaded.
Lifting Slings & Accessories
All lifting attachments must have a tag attached to indicate the manufacturer, date of manufacture, date put into service, and safe working limit and any limitations or precautions for use. Lifting accessories include among other things; soft slings, steel wire and chain slings, shackles and hooks.
Lifting eye bolts must also display their essential details including the SWL.
WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert (http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au) on soft slings, i.e. fabric lifting slings, as these can more easily be damaged in storage or use and fail unexpectedly. Soft slings should not be the default choice as they are susceptible to mechanical, chemical and UV damage, and should only be selected when the risk assessment shows other slings are not appropriate.
We have seen forklift tine extensions and other “home-made” forklift attachments which lack an identification plaque to confirm the manufacturer, date of manufacture, safe working load and any limitations or precautions.
The harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations (Reg. 218) require that all forklift lifting attachments must be:
a) Suitable for the load to be lifted;
b) Operated in a manner that ensures that any risk is eliminated or minimised as far as reasonably practicable. Therefore documented instructions on connect use (e.g. operating instructions) should also be supplied with all lifting attachments.
WHS Regulation 219 also requires equipment used to lift or suspend loads to be specifically designed to lift or suspend the particular load. This would require the manufacturer’s plaque and safe load capacity to be displayed in order to confirm compliance.
Note: All lifting attachments must be securely attached and not loose on the forklift tine.
The key standards and references for this article include; the WHS Regulations 2011, AS 4084 steel storage racking, Guide to 10 year major inspections by Crane Industry Council of Australia, WorkSafe Victoria soft sling safety alert & mobile crane checklist.