The Importance of Familiarisation

A near miss has highlighted the importance of ensuring that operators are familiar with a new piece of work equipment. The incident occurred on one of Tilhill Forestry’s harvesting sites and had the potential to have had a much more serious outcome.

A new operator was working a Ponsse forwarder and, while the operator had all the relevant competencies and experience, this was his first time in this particular model.

The forwarder lost traction whilst traversing along the extraction route, slipped on the hill and the operator accidentally pressed the throttle instead of brake causing the machine to accelerate downhill. A drive coupling broke on the machine and it free-wheeled for about 20m down the hill before the operator applied the brakes and the forwarder came to a stop narrowly avoiding a collision with a stack of timber.

The near miss investigation concluded that the root cause for this unsafe act was a lack of experience and familiarity with this model of forwarder.

It’s important that enough time is allowed for operators of new equipment – not just large plant – to become familiar and comfortable with any changes in the controls, different handling/operating characteristics and, most importantly, safety controls like emergency brakes, cut-off switches etc.

Learning Points:

  • Allow time for machine operators to become familiar with the machine controls in a safe environment before operating the machine for the first time – the more complex the piece of equipment the more time is likely to be required.
  • Don’t assume that a different model is the same as something it’s replaced.