Inspection pits (HSE Guidance)

Related Blog Post: Pits Vs. Lifts for MoT Bays

Pre-fabricated Inspection PitsInspection pits are still commonly found in MVR premises and an assessment of workplace risks may well show that they are the safest option when working on diesel-fueled vehicles. But they present particular hazards and are a common cause of accidents, not only to those unfamiliar with the premises but also to employees who momentarily forget the presence of an unfenced pit, or who slip or trip, and fall into them. When working on petrol fueled vehicles, a lift is usually a safer alternative.

The principal hazards are:

  • Falling into the pit (the Work at Height Regulations will apply);
  • Slipping on access steps;
  • Fire or asphyxiation from an accumulation of gases or vapours that are heavier than air, or fuel release;
  • A vehicle or other objects falling on an employee in the pit;
  • Head injuries from contact with the vehicle over the pit.

Preventing falls into pits

When deciding on the precautions, the employer needs to consider a number of options. The best solution is likely to depend on the particular work undertaken,

  • Health and safety in motor vehicle repair and associated industries
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • layout of the premises and management and supervision in the workplace..
  • Limiting access to the area

The more people working or walking around the pit area, the greater the risk of falls, probably because they become familiar with the risk and are concentrating on other tasks. Restrict access to people who need to be there. Where possible, physically segregate the pit or group of pits or modify the layout of the workplace to keep non-authorised people away from the pit area (for example by making clearly defined pedestrian routes and using barriers and partitions). Provide enough signs and supervision to enforce this segregation.

Covering pit openings

Where practical, cover pit openings when they are not in use. Also cover areas of the pit that are left exposed when the vehicle being worked on is shorter than the length of the pit. A number of proprietary systems are available that allow all or parts of the pit to be covered.

Ideally, any cover should:

  • Be quick to install and remove (for example if a pit worker needs to get out in an emergency);
  • Be robust enough to withstand a falling person and any other load likely to be imposed on them;
  • Ft securely in place;
  • Be compatible with other pit equipment.

Installation and removal of covers may itself create a small risk, due to handling and proximity to the opening, and this should be weighed against the time that the pit is left uncovered and other precautions in place.

Safe access across the pit

Given the length of many pits, people take short cuts across the opening even where there are ‘official’ instructions not to. It may be a better solution to provide a proprietary moveable bridge across the pit with handrails on the open sides (see Figure 63). Such a bridge can also be used as a safe platform for work that would otherwise be impractical to carry out due to the open pit, for example on the rear engine of a bus or coach.

Other types of barrier

Guard rails, chains or extendible barriers can provide flexible protection for workers near the pit edge. They allow access to the side of a vehicle over a pit (as the vehicle covers the pit at this point) while providing a warning of the open pit not covered by the vehicle. They need to be sufficiently high, stable and clearly visible so that they do not create a tripping hazard. Extendible barriers are not designed to withstand the weight of a falling person, but act as a physical reminder of an open edge.

Improving visibility

It is important that the pit opening can be seen easily. Use pit lighting during working hours and clearly mark pit edges, for example by black and yellow bands of slip-resistant paint. Ensure the pit lights are kept clean and replace failed bulbs immediately. White painted walls help reflect light and increase the efficiency of the lighting system, but need to be cleaned regularly.

Reducing the risk of slips and trips

Ensure the surface around the pit is slip-resistant, either by using anti-slip materials or by having an Eeffective cleaning regime. As far as possible, keep the area clear from obstructions and deal with spillages immediately. Similarly, keep the area inside the pit free from obstructions – this will improve access for pit workers.

Access to pits

  • Pits require safe means of entry and exit. Provide at least one fixed entry/exit point with additional, separate, usable means of escape where the risk assessment identifies the need (for example, where escape may be blocked off by the parked vehicle or for pits over 9 m long).
  • A significant number of injuries occur from people slipping on the access steps. Provide a handrail where possible, for example a permanent handrail may be appropriate on sunken pits or low-level handrails below floor level. Removable handrails may be an option for other installations.
  • Use slip-resistant coatings on the steps and keep them free from contamination. The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) have carried out extensive research on tread patterns for footwear, which shows large variations in performance even for those designated ‘slip-resistant’. When specifying footwear, remember that ‘oil-resistant’ does not mean ‘slip-resistant’.

Preventing fire and asphyxiation

  • Pits are likely to have poor natural ventilation so the release of any low flashpoint substance or heavier-than-air gas above or near a pit can create fire/explosion and asphyxiation risks. To reduce these risks:
  • Do not carry out pit work on non-diesel tanks or associated fuel lines where there is a risk of release. Do not carry out any hot work on or near any tank or fuel line, including diesel systems;
  • Do not store portable LPG heaters, or other LPG-fuelled devices, in or near pits in case they leak;
  • Before carrying out pit work on air-conditioning units, empty the refrigerant with a proprietary system well away from the pit area;
  • Do not weld in a pit unless effective local exhaust ventilation is provided;
  • Use fixed lighting in the pit that is suitable for potentially explosive atmospheres and conforms to a suitable standard;
  • Use handlamps of special construction, that have been designed and tested to prevent ignition in flammable atmospheres;
  • Do not leave vehicles idling over pits unless there is dedicated exhaust extraction.

Preventing vehicles or other objects falling into the pit

  • Highlighted pit edges (approximately 150 mm wide) are a useful guide when driving vehicles on and off the pit but may need supplementing with mirrors. It may be necessary to authorise a competent marshal to assist manoeuvring (and watch out for moving vehicles or pedestrians). Only competent and authorised drivers should be allowed to manoeuvre vehicles on and off the pit.
  • For narrow-wheelbase, twin-wheeled vehicles (where the inner tyre may be hanging over the pit edge), ensure that the outer tyres are correctly inflated and in a satisfactory condition to reduce the risk of vehicles tipping or sliding into the pit. Also ensure that outer tyres will not be loaded in excess of their carrying capacity (load index rating).
  • Remove discarded or replaced parts as soon as possible and do not leave tools or other items around the pit apron, working platforms etc.

Preventing other injuries

Provide suitable head protection for pit workers where there is a risk of injury from contact with the vehicle overhead or from falling objects. The ultimate strength of the head protection is probably less important than the ability to wear it. For example, baseball-style, short-peak bump caps provide a degree of protection, stay in place and allow reasonable upward vision. They may be more appropriate than traditional, construction-type helmets. Eye protection may be required to guard against displaced dust, rust or other debris and especially materials ejected under pressure, eg hydraulic fluids. Ear defenders may be necessary for noisy processes such as engine running.

Original source material:

So now you have researched your pit type and the regulations that control its form and facilities so its time to look at the physical equipment that you are going to install to the bay…

MoT Inspection Pit by GETECH Garage Equipment
A class 7 ATL MoT bay on an inspection pit (Blockwork Pit)

One of the first things that needs to be decided on is the type of MoT test lane that you want to install to your business. Is it going to be a traditional 2 man operation or a fully automated system that offers manpower advantages and cost savings in a very short period for the additional expenditure? We wrote a blog post some time ago to explain the types of MoT test lane that are available for new stations which can be viewed HERE.

Class 4 ATL Pit Bay Package
A class 4 ATL MoT Bay with a Fabricated Pit

Now having decided on the type of MoT bay that you want to install it is possible to identify the equipment required to achieve the VOSA authorisation. Some companies, such as GETECH Garage Equipment, offer competitive ready-to-run packages off the peg so to speak. GETECH’s MoT Pit Packages can be broswed from this starting link… GETECH MoT Equipment Packages for Inspection Pits

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