Covid-19: Standing Down MHE – BITA

Covid-19: Standing Down MHE

In response to industry requests for further advice on safe practices for Materials Handling equipment (MHE) during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) has issued fresh guidance on Standing Down MHE during idle periods, such as might occur when a site is closed due to the need to control the spread of the virus.

The guidelines are designed to help protect everyone working in the industry and the association has said it is vital these recommendations are adhered to.

Standing Down MHE

Where sites are closed, maintenance, servicing, inspection and Thorough Examination of Materials Handling Equipment may not be possible, nevertheless, there remains a legal obligation under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) to ensure that equipment is safe to use.

Equipment must not be used if the LOLER and PUWER inspection, examination and maintenance requirements have lapsed and the status of equipment removed from service must clear to all users. Equipment must not be returned to service until any outstanding obligations under both LOLER and PUWER have been met.

When standing down a machine for an extended period of time, BITA recommends that:

  1. Trucks should be parked on smooth, level ground with the load handling means, e.g. forks, lowered to the ground and with the means of starting, e.g. key, removed.
  2. All equipment should be cleaned thoroughly (refer to BITA guidance on Safe Cleaning Practices for MHE & Plant)
  3. The operator’s manual should be referred to for correct information on shutdown procedure and storage. Please note, information in the operator’s manual has precedence over this fact sheet.
  4. Procedures for lead acid traction batteries:
  • Fully charge the battery with normal battery maintenance procedures completed
  • Clean the battery and dry cell tops and connectors
  • Disconnect connectors to electrically isolate the battery from the machine – unless this is prohibited in the instruction handbook
  • Fluid levels should be checked, and a maintenance charge administered every third month of storage
  • Batteries may be kept on the truck or stored separately in a dry area protected from extremes of high and low temperature, preferably indoors
  • Where batteries are used in cold or chilled stores, they should not be left in the store for extended idle periods whether on or off the truck. This may require that the battery is removed from the truck. If so, the battery may require drying after removal due to condensation. If trucks require a permanent battery supply such as for moving part heaters, then the truck manufacturer should be consulted for advice
  • Check the correct functioning of any watering systems when topping fluid levels
  • Before reintroducing the truck into service, check all electrical connections and cables for damage (possible rodent damage to insulation) and arrange repairs where needed
  • Before recommissioning, check the electrolyte level and density and fully charge the battery

Procedures for lithium ion batteries:

  • Fully inspect the battery for signs of damage
  • Fully charge the battery
  • Disconnect the battery isolator, electrically isolating the battery from the machine
  • Disconnect the CAN communication connector from the battery, but do NOT disconnect the battery management system (BMS) from the battery
  • Batteries should generally be stored indoors, away from heat sources and direct sunlight, and within the temperature range 0°C to 40°C
  • Storage areas should be dry and well ventilated (max. 85% humidity)
  • Ensure sufficient protection against short circuit and mechanical damage
  • A maintenance charge and inspection should be administered every third month
  • The battery charge should not be permitted to fall below 50% of full charge
  1. For LPG powered machines, gas bottles should be removed from the machine and connectors should be checked to ensure they are suitably shielded from damage, contamination or oxidation. The battery should also then be disconnected, and the terminals protected with acid-free grease.
  1. For Diesel-powered machines, the fuel tank should be fully-filled to prevent build-up of condensation. The battery should then be disconnected from the machine and the terminals protected with acid-free grease.
  1. Hydraulic system. If the machine is unlikely to be used for over 12 months, then the hydraulic fluid should be replaced. The fluid should be checked for traces of condensation before the machine is re-introduced into service.
  1. The machine’s drive unit should be appropriately supported to remove loading on the drive wheel.
  1. For machines with solid (non-pneumatic) wheels, the machine should be supported to prevent tyre deformation and flat spots. For pneumatic wheels, ensure tyres are always inflated to the recommended operating pressure.
  1. For unpainted surfaces, all chains and mechanical parts should be lubricated, and penetrating oil or suitable protective aerosol spray applied to all electrical connections.
  1. If the machine is to be stored in a dusty environment then it should be shrouded with a cover that does not collect condensation, e.g. a cotton cover rather than a plastic sheet.
  1. Before reintroduction to service, Thorough Examination under LOLER and outstanding servicing, maintenance and inspection requirements of PUWER must be brought up to date. Perform the same servicing tasks and functional testing as carried out when the truck was first commissioned – the operator’s manual should be consulted for commissioning procedures.
  1. Please note, our HSE-approved guidance, stating that obligations to maintain, inspect and examine equipment as required by LOLER and PUWER remain fully in force and have not changed.


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