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How come fork lift accidents are rising while road accidents are falling?

20 October 2017

Although the tougher new testing regime for fork lift operators has met with widespread approval, according to Dave Sparrow, Managing Director of accrediting body AITT, it’s just a first step in the journey to improving safety.

“The new procedure has been introduced to address widespread concerns that the test was too easy,” explains Dave Sparrow. “For example, while just 28% of drivers taking the driving test for a car pass first time, it’s been estimated that among forklift operators it was as high as 95%. Small wonder that everyone involved with creating, accrediting and delivering courses wanted a more rigorous approach.

Improvements like these are vital: the number of serious injuries resulting from forklift-related incidents remains stubbornly high and the latest figures released by the HSE – of more than 1300 deaths and serious injuries every year – suggest that the situation is actually deteriorating rather than improving. 

This runs counter to trends in road transport which saw the number of deaths from road accidents halved between 2000 and 2013… 

While some of that improvement can be attributed to increasingly comprehensive and stringent testing, the greatest improvement is attributed by many to ever-present feedback and controls that drivers receive from signage, traffic lights, cameras, police presence and, of course, other, highly-motivated road users!  

That same, real time direction is what’s needed in the workplace. Senior staff have a clear and vital role in ensuring they properly understand their roles and responsibilities when it comes to forklift operations… and manage them diligently. That includes providing appropriate training and refresher for everyone involved, including managers, supervisors and those working alongside fork lifts, as well as the operators themselves.

But, important though it is, even refresher training comes with a health warning. In reality, most operators will pass a refresher test because they know how to drive correctly - when they must! 

So what’s to be done? 

In my experience testing standards don’t allow for assessment of attitude and ‘normal’ practice – which almost always involves bad habits, cutting corners and taking the view that ‘nothing bad will happen because it never has’.  

That is where proper, on-going, day-to-day supervision comes into play, supplemented by routine compliance audits conducted by companies such as ours. These assess your operations as a whole, and provide invaluable insights which have the potential to save lives and significantly enhance your company’s bottom line. 

For more information on how to improve fork lift safety with the most appropriate training in your workplace contact AITT here.