An issue that has been brewing in the elevated work platform (EWP) sector for some time, could compromise safety and potentially cost contractors thousands of dollars.
Mike Breen, board member of the Elevated Work Platform Association (EWPA) says second-hand bucket trucks that don’t meet New Zealand regulations (AS/NZS1418.10) are being imported from Japan and illegally sold for this purpose.
“Almost every used Japanese bucket truck on the market imported after 2011 is likely to be non-compliant. They are not built to the required Australian and New Zealand standards, and may lack safety equipment that is mandatory here. It is a major safety problem facing the industry.”
Mike says among the risks of buying one of these machines is that it is nearly impossible to prove their structural integrity and safety.
“They might look pretty with a new coat of paint, but could be rusted out inside. This could result in the machine seizing up, or worse failing under a load.”
Non-compliant bucket trucks are more likely to arrive without load cells or safety interlocks – connected to the four legs that extend out from the truck to level it out and provide stability while in use, he says.
“If the buckets are raised without interlocks, safety can be compromised straight away.”
Second hand bucket trucks are also required by law to have a Major Certificate Inspection completed at the time of importation, which is almost never done, says Mike. “The requirements of the Major Inspection almost certainly indicate that a machine would be completely dismantled, inspected and crack tested before being put into service. Be very wary of ‘cheap imported’ trucks as it is likely these are non compliant”.
“A condition of the safety rebuild is that the manufacturer must be contacted to establish whether relevant safety upgrades have been completed to the manufacturers specification before the vehicle was exported to New Zealand, and if there have been any factory recalls of the make and model. For a lot of these machines it is difficult or impossible to contact the manufacturer, as they have either gone out of business, or refuse to answer the questions and support the vehicles once they are in New Zealand.”
As there are no regulations banning the importation of these machines a dealer can simply say they are importing them for spare parts before advertising them as working bucket trucks.
This makes it difficult to ascertain culpability if an accident occurs while a machine is in use on a work site.
Mike says buyers must beware because if something goes wrong with the machine, they, and not the dealer, will probably be liable, even if the dealer has misrepresented the machine at the point of sale. It is the responsibility of the company buying and putting the machine into service to ensure it meets the required safety standards.
“If a company buys a non-compliant second-hand bucket truck and has an accident on their , or another commercial site, WorkSafe would get involved and probably ask EWPA to provide a report on what caused the accident. The first thing we will look at is if the truck complies with New Zealand regulations and if it has had a major service rebuild when first imported. If the answer is no to these questions we would have no choice but to advise WorkSafe that the machine was non-compliant and they would then likely prosecute the owner.”
Mike says there are several used truck dealers around New Zealand who are blatantly flouting the law by importing and selling these vehicles from their yards or online, advertising them as fit for purpose working bucket machines or cherry pickers.
He believes there are at least 10 ‘dodgy and probably illegal’ machines currently for sale at Auckland vehicle yards, and undertook a quick Trademe search during the interview with Builders and Contractors and found at least four others for sale on the site.
“We have even heard of some dodgy companies putting certificates on trucks suggesting they have had a major certification check completed when this is actually impossible, as a truck can’t be certified unless it meets New Zealand regulations in the first place.”
It is these sorts of hazards that potential buyers need to be aware of, as ultimately it is their responsibility to ensure any equipment they use has full compliance and is fit for purpose.
“From every angle, there is no way these trucks should be on the road. However we know of plenty of guys driving around in them. They are particularly popular with smaller building firms, and installers of alarms, and aerials who may not have done proper due diligence and are unaware of the risks.”
If there is an accident and the machine was found to be non-compliant by Worksafe, owners could face a hefty fine:, often around $25,000 – $50,000 and could also lose their investment in the vehicle. Worse still; the lives of users of these machines may be put in danger.
Mike says the EWPA has known about the problem of second-hand Japanese imports for some time, and has requested that WorkSafe be more proactive, rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Mike suggests that “all prospective buyers of recently imported EWP’s should contact a reputable inspection company before buying to ensure the machine meets required standards and has had mandatory inspections completed” The EWPA can provide a list of inspection companies in your area and you can contact them through the website: www.ewpa.org.nz.
“Until there is legislative change preventing the selling of these machines, unscrupulous dealers will continue to bring these potentially dangerous and illegal trucks into circulation. All we can do in the meantime is educate potential buyers to be aware of the risks and ensure they do full due diligence before purchasing a second hand bucket truck imported from Japan.”