A safety alert was recently issued in South Australia following an incident involving the disconnection of the steering column of an earthmoving loader.
It appeared that the steering column, which was located within the arm of a retro-fitted seat, became disconnected when the seat was fully raised and moved backwards to allow the driver to exit the cab, and the steering function would have subsequently been lost from the disconnection.
The seat was designed to be retro-fitted to the loader for the ergonomic benefit of the operator, and the seat was usually fitted with a seat tether (between the seat frame and the cab floor) by the manufacturer.
On this occasion, it appeared that the seat was fitted by the plant owner and that the seat tether was either not fitted or not maintained.
The safety alert recommended a number of actions, including:
- Owners of load shifting plant with retro-fitted seating must ensure that the adjustable steering splined shafts forming the steering column cannot disconnect under any circumstances of use/movement of the seat.
- Where potential of disconnection of the column is identified through the process of assessment of risk, the owner must immediately contact the seat manufacturer to seek advice on the appropriate control measures to prevent disconnection without inhibiting the ergonomic benefits of the seat.
- Owners of plant must ensure that any manufacturer’s instructions are complied with including the fitting, inspection and maintenance procedures of any control devices, which have been fitted (or new ones that need to be fitted) to prevent column disconnection.
- After-market seating suppliers must ensure that if the seat is to be fitted to load shifting plant with a splined-type steering column, the seating design must not permit the column to be disconnected under any circumstances of seat use/operator ergonomic adjustment.