Inspection pits are a common sight in most commercial garages, transport depots, and other facilities which regularly need to access the underside of vehicles.
Despite their ubiquitous nature, inspection pits continue to pose a risk to those who work both in and around them.
Although they are below ground level, falls into inspection pits are considered falls from height, and can cause serious injury or worse. According to the HSE, falls from height remain a leading cause of injuries and fatal accidents at work.
Inspection pits are crucial to the day to day running of many different vehicle repair and maintenance facilities, being regularly used by employees. It is vital that employers and those with a health and safety responsibility do everything possible to minimise the risk of accidents.
Inspection Pit Standards
Work at Height guidelines dictate the management of fall risks, including into inspection pits. However, pits may need to meet other requirements depending on the industry, such as VOSA.
Any inspection pit installed in the UK after 2014 needs to comply with Construction Products Legislation and CE marking guidelines. If your pit is found to not meet current guidelines, your local trading authority or even the Health and Safety Executive could order you to stop work and even fine you.
Modern pits should be made of steel sections that are welded together, rather than pure concrete. Older concrete pits were generally not waterproof and were also at risk of cracking and collapse due to the weight of vehicles above.
Work at Height Regulations put the onus on employers and site operators to ensure correct measures are put in place, including risk assessments, to prevent falls into inspection pits.
What Are The Risks?
Beyond trips and falls, there are a few other potential risks posed by vehicle inspection pits, including:
- Slips up or down access steps
- Asphyxiation due to poor ventilation
- Injury due to vehicles or other objects falling into the pit
- Head injuries
- Fire due to a build-up of vapours or fuel release
Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safely, so even though it is impossible to completely negate these dangers, you should be doing all you can to mitigate the risk.
It’s not just employees at risk from inspection pits. In 2016, a garage was fined £1,800 after a customer fell into an open inspection pit in Hertfordshire. The customer was being shown around his vehicle, in front of the pit, when he slipped and fell. The man sustained spinal fractures, a slipped disc, a badly sprained ankle and cuts and swelling.
The owner of the garage was fined and forced to pay costs after the court found there were insufficient measures in place to protect against falls.
What can you do to ensure inspection pit safety?
There are a few practical measures you can take to ensure work is carried out in and around inspection pits safely:
- Limit Access: ensure only those who are trained and competent can access the pit or the area in which the pit is located. Signs and supervision should be implemented. You can also use barriers or demarcation to ensure the area is clearly marked.
- Improve Visibility: you can use pit lighting, or you can clearly mark pit edges with black and yellow paint, ensuring the pit is as hard to miss as possible.
- Reduce Slip & Trip Risk: anti-slip material can be used around the pit, and the area should be regularly cleaned and tidied to remove trip hazards or spills.
- Clearly Mark Access: ensure there is at least one fixed entry and exit point with an additional means of escape should this become blocked by a vehicle.
- Be Conscious of Fuel and Vapours: fuel vapours will sink to the bottom of the pit, posing a fire or suffocation risk. To tackle this, avoid hot works near any fuel tank or line. Store flammable objects a safe distance away. Ensure workers only ever weld in a pit with exhaust ventilation, and prevent vehicles from idling over the pit itself.
One of the most effective ways of protecting workers from the dangers of a pit is to simply cover it. Some site managers might cringe at the idea of covering the pit as it provides extra work and restricts access to the underside of vehicles.
That’s why we created PitProtect, a lightweight fall protection system designed with inspection pits in mind. Ideal for protecting those both inside the pit and above, the aluminium concertina design means PitProtect can be used to fit almost any width void, even if it’s uneven. PitProtect safeguards open pits, with a robust design that prevents both falls from height and minimises the risk of falling objects to those below, all whilst allowing unrestricted access to the underside of vehicles.
The PitProtect cover has been rigorously tested, conforming to BS.8630:2019, and can even be safely used as a working platform. The innovative and durable lightweight concertina design makes the system quick and easy to deploy and store, minimising the impact on efficiency while maximising safety in and around inspection pits.
For more information on PitProtect, or to discuss how we might be able to help you, call us on 01869 32 32 82 or use our online contact form.