Safely alert on vehicles with air suspension systems

22 May 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a safely alert on the subject of vehicles with air suspension systems.

The safety release is aimed at those carrying out or responsible for work on vehicles with air suspension systems including:

  • motor vehicle repair workshops

  • the roadside repair and recovery industry

  • customer sites where this work is undertaken.

The alert explains how vehicles are commonly fitted with air suspension systems, including buses and coaches, refuse vehicles, goods vehicles and tankers.

On a vehicle with an air suspension system, inflated rubber bellows (also known as airbags) are supplied with air from the vehicle’s air compressor via a storage system.

These take the place of conventional springs at each wheel or axle and automatically ensure a consistent ride height, regardless of the load being carried.

The HSE has recently investigated several serious incidents, including fatalities, involving air suspension systems on vehicles that have failed.

The two main causes of the incidents have been the collapse of inadequately supported vehicles and unintended rupture or release of components from the air suspension system.

The HSE says it is important to do the following.

  • 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. The HSE says under no circumstances should air suspension be relied upon to maintain a vehicle’s ride height or position while people gain access to areas as 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. Workers should not use clamping of air suspension pipework as a means of temporary isolation as it is not secure.

The alert can be accessed via the HSE website.