Air suspension service safety alert22 May 2020

The Health and Safety Executive has issued a safety alert concerning work around vehicle air suspension systems used on commercial vehicles such as buses and coaches, refuse vehicles, goods vehicles and tankers.

It says: “HSE has investigated several serious incidents, including fatalities, involving air suspension systems on vehicles that have failed. Causes of the incidents have included:

  • Work being carried out on vehicles supported by the air suspension system and the airbags have catastrophically failed
  • Work has been carried out on the suspension control system or vehicle sensors and unexpected suspension movement has occurred
  • Work has been carried out without de-pressurising the air suspension system and the pneumatic air bag or associated components have ejected or ruptured."

As a result, it issued a safety alert on 12 May. That document recommends that technicians should take steps to prevent movement of air suspension, ‘either by deflating the system or by using suitably rated props or stands to prevent the chassis lowering.’

The document goes on to say that technicians need to adequately plan the work before starting; that includes a visual check of the configuration and condition of the air suspension system.

It goes on to offer the following guidance:

  • Undertake minimal repair work at the roadside or third-party premises. The best place to undertake such work is at an adequately equipped vehicle repair facility
  • Prevent movement of air suspension, either by deflating the system or by using suitably rated props or stands to prevent the chassis lowering. Under no circumstances should air suspension be relied upon to maintain a vehicle’s ride height or position whilst people gain access to areas where they may become trapped
  • Exhaust the air from the air suspension system before working on it
  • Isolate the air suspension system by physical disconnection of the air supply before working on it. You should not use clamping of air suspension pipework as a means of temporary isolation, as it is not secure.
  • For leak testing, visually inspect the empty system, then inflate and raise to full travel, leave a short period of time before inspecting for leaks. Should damage be identified, exhaust the air from the system before carrying out repairs.

For further information, the guidance refers to HSE guidance note PM85, ‘Safe recovery (and repair) of buses and coaches fitted with air suspension; see link below.

William Dalrymple

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