WorkCover NSW recently issued a safety alert about the potential for crush injuries when working on vehicles with air-suspension systems.
The alert was issued following an incident in which an apprentice mechanic, working underneath a bus, received crush injuries when a leak in the air-suspension system caused the bus to lower unexpectedly.
The apprentice was replacing a steering dampener, and had performed this task previously using a maintenance pit. However, on this occasion, the pit was unavailable.
In an attempt to free the trapped apprentice, other workers activated the ignition, which initially caused the bus to lower further before raising automatically.
In the safety alert, it was noted that air-suspension systems may lower for various reasons, such as an air leak, a change in the level of the vehicle, when the ignition is turned on, when a suspension sensor is removed, or when an apparently unrelated control is activated (for example, a kneeling bus may automatically lower when the door is opened).
WorkCover NSW said those who operate, service, maintain, repair or retrieve vehicles with air-suspension systems should implement measures to ensure the safety of workers at all times – and advise all workers of these control measures.
“One measure could include not going under a vehicle with an air-suspension system unless it is supported against lowering; another could be releasing all air pressure and deactivating the system before work begins,” said the safety alert.
“Caution is essential when a change in work processes or the working environment occurs – for example, as in this instance, when the task was performed on a flat floor rather than the maintenance pit, when a breakdown occurs in the field, or when the vehicle is being towed.”
In these circumstances, the safety alert noted that risk assessments should be reviewed and, if necessary, new control measures implemented before work commences.