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The long-awaited HSE guidance on the handling of tail-lift delivery pallet weights is facing further delay and will not be published until the end of the year, has learned.

The guidance was due to be signed off last month in a meeting between the HSE and the industry working group, which includes the Association of Pallet Networks (APN) and the RHA.

However, the deadline was pushed back to the end of the year after the working group asked the HSE to include additional advice on training, implementation of the guidance and its benefits in terms of driver retention.

Paul Sanders, APN chief executive, said: “We had a productive meeting where we asked for further development of the guidance. It now has to go back to the HSE and I am optimistic it will be ready to be published by the end of the year.”

Tom Coates, MD of HW Coates and owner of Hazchem, condemned the guidance delay.

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HW Coates-owned Rase Distribution, a Palletways member, has refused to deliver pallets above 750kg to residential addresses since the start of the year on the grounds that anything heavier contravenes health and safety regulations.

Coates said: “The delay to the publication of the tail-lift guidance is no great surprise but no less shameful for that. The process has been captured by the pallet networks, who are interested in volume and seemingly careless of the risks.

“The law on health and safety is clear. No network can wish away its obligation to do a proper risk assessment, nor expect an ‘industry-wide solution’ to rescue it from having to act – it is past time for us all to take action.”

Richard Smith, RHA operations director and a working group member, defended the delay: “I understand operators’ frustration but we want to ensure the guidelines are transparent and very supportive to operators.”

The pallet weight guidance was prompted by the increasing number of bulk deliveries to residential addresses following the rise of online shopping. MT first reported that stakeholders were working on producing it close to five years ago.

However Adrian Bradley, MD of Fortec, which introduced a 750kg limit on tail-lift deliveries in 2015, told MT recently that he had no regrets about the decision. “From our perspective, you know we didn’t do the depth of analysis that the HSE has done, but we used the common factor that if you reduce a weight you reduce a risk.

That is still our view and still our members’ view,” said Bradley, who added that customers had adapted and increased the volume of pallets shipped as a consequence of the limit.

The guidance was given added momentum by the death in 2016 of driver Petru Pop who was crushed to death under a 1.4 tonne pallet of tiles while making a tail-lift delivery to a residential address in Hemel Hempstead on behalf of Reason Transport – a Palletways member at the time.

The guidance

According to sources the draft guidance stops short of recommending an optimum pallet weight for tail-lift deliveries.

However it highlights HSE tests which showed that recommended safety limits for starting and stopping a load were breached by 50% when attempting to move pallets in excess of 750kg.

The guidance adds that this figure increases “considerably” in real world conditions and suggests the need for a dynamic risk assessment when transporting pallets weighing 500kg or more.

However the guidance stresses pallet weight is only one element and highlights other key factors such as communication throughout the chain, use of the right equipment and knowledge of site conditions.

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