Quick Hitches

The Health and Safety Authority is issuing an urgent warning to Construction Employers and Employees of the dangers associated with the operation of excavators, particularly the use of excavators fitted with a quick hitch device.  This warning follows a number of fatal and serious accidents in the construction industry in recent months, where excavator buckets became detached and fell onto workers.

Quick hitch devices are used on earth moving equipment for the removal and attachment of equipment such as buckets and rock breakers. These devices depend on, positive hydraulic pressure and/ or mechanical locks or safety pins, to hold buckets and other attachments in place.

In a number of cases investigated by the Authority involving semi automatic quick hitch devices, it was found that the safety pin had not been inserted and the bucket became detached from the quick hitch, striking the worker.

Semi automatic quick hitch systems locate and hold the bucket or other attachment via a hydraulic system, but are then locked in place by a back up safety locking pin / bar which is manually located behind the ram. The safety bar is an important feature, as it allows for a fail to safety as it prevents the back pin from retracting.

It is important to note that in most cases the insertion of the safety locking pin does not confirm that the bucket or other attachment is secured, only that the back pin lock cannot retract.

Operators should follow the manufactures recommendations in ensuring that the bucket is attached, this is normally achieved by a series of

Where earthmoving equipment fitted with quick hitch devices is being operated on your site you need to ensure that

  • All operators hold a current CPCS card.
  • All operators have received adequate familiarisation training in the specific machinery they are operating including the hitch systems and attachments.
  • Manufacturers operating and maintenance manuals for the plant and attachments should be kept in the cab.
  •  a safe system of work is used so that:
  • No worker is allowed to work within reach of an excavator bucket or rock-breaker
  • Mechanical locking pins are used correctly to prevent an uncontrolled release.

Construction Employers and plant operators should:

  1. Review operating procedures and standard work instructions to ensure that quick hitch mechanisms are used correctly and  in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations
  2. Review maintenance and inspection practices to ensure that quick hitch mechanisms are maintained in a clean and fully serviceable condition.
  3. Provide supervision, monitoring and checking to ensure compliance with work procedures by workers and plant operatives.