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Championing UK material handling

28 October 2021

The past two years have tested the UK material handling sector like never before. The demands of Brexit saw the warehousing and logistics sectors stretched to near capacity. But this was relegated to a sideshow by the needs thrust upon the sectors by the requirements of the pandemic.

UNDER THE circumstances, what better time could there have been than to launch a new association dedicated to promoting and upholding the interests of the UK material handling sector.

Virtually all manufactured goods and commodities are moved by material handling equipment at some point in their journey from factory to end user. The material handling industry therefore plays a pivotal role in the UK economy and is almost unique in the way it operates across all industries, keeping the UK moving.

The new UK Material Handling Association (UKMHA) was officially formed at the beginning of 2021 following the merger of the UK material handling industry's two most respected trade associations, the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), together with their co-owned subsidiary, Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), the accrediting body introduced to deliver the first national procedure for Thorough Examination. 

The merger strengthens the offering of the combined organisations, enhancing the services delivered to members and all those who own and operate forklift trucks. 

UKMHA has initially acted as an umbrella organisation until plans are finalised for the full merger. Traditionally, BITA has represented the interests of industrial truck manufacturers, with the FLTA promoting the interests of dealers, owners and operators. Both associations have continued in their respective roles although they have been collaborating on a number of specific projects throughout the year.

Once the merger is complete, both associations will be subsumed under the UKMHA brand.

High on the agenda for the new association has been – and will continue to be – the promotion of improved standards of safety and service across the entire material handling sector. Both associations have actively promoted higher safety standards across the industry; BITA through initiatives such as National Forklift Safety Day and the FLTA through the Forklift Safety Convention and Safety Drive. These initiatives have continued to be advocated but with the singular focus represented by the UKMHA.

It was no coincidence that the association chose one of these campaigns, National Forklift Safety Day, to commemorate the official launch of the new association. 

For the 2021 NFSD campaign, the new body chose to focus on the importance of accredited Thorough Examination. The campaign coincided with the publication of an updated BITA GN28 - the industry approved guideline on Thorough Examination and Safety Inspection of Industrial Lift Trucks in accordance with the provisions of LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) 1998 and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) 1998. 

The timing of the campaign was also fitting, coming as it did just as UK industry began to emerge from the latest COVID-19 lockdown. With so many businesses reliant on material handling equipment to fulfil their operations, there was a need to ensure their MHE was in good working order with no dangerous defects or deterioration.

David Goss, technical director, UK Material Handling Association said: “Management has a responsibility to ensure that all its MHE is in good condition and safe to use. The best way of ensuring this is to have the equipment examined by an accredited competent person.”

Best practice is to put the equipment through a Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS) inspection known as Thorough Examination.

Thorough Examination is the name given to the mandatory inspection required by law to ensure that the lifting equipment is in safe working order. It is similar to the MOT for cars.

UKMHA recommends that all Thorough Examinations should be completed by a suitably qualified CFTS-accredited Competent Person. The CFTS mark is a guarantee that a lift truck will be examined carefully, and that key components such as brakes and steering will also be checked along with the lifting mechanism.

“MHE must receive a Thorough Examination at least once a year. However, examinations could be required more often depending on the type of truck and the application,” added Mr Goss.

“The process is governed by regulations enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These state that Thorough Examination of industrial lift trucks is required under LOLER 1998, which covers lifting equipment, and safety inspections of other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres, are required under PUWER 1998.” 

The updated GN28, which is free to members of BITA and FLTA, incorporates several changes to the current guidelines, including clarification around the date of first examination, confirmation on requirements for lorry-mounted trucks, recommended intervals between examinations for attachments, and improved guidance on inspection and test criteria.

The unique ability of the UKMHA to shine a beacon on such issues was highlighted during the Fork Lift Truck Association’s annual Safety Drive. In addition to reinforcing the importance of Thorough Examination, LOLER and PUWER, the Safety Drive also highlighted the importance of proper training for engineers, drivers, management and other workers. Protection of engineers working on-site and the safety of fork lift drivers and pedestrians working alongside MHE were also highlighted.

Tim Waples, UKMHA CEO, said: “The arrival of the UK Material Handling Association is a gamechanger for the industry and with our unique structure and overarching membership, we can spotlight important issues such as promoting higher safety standards.

“We will continue to apply these principles as we move forward and by working together, will rightly position the UK Material Handling Association as the single voice for this important sector.”

Manufacturers will benefit from an increased scope, offering them far better access to stakeholders and the opportunity to develop stronger relationships with end users and supporting dealers.

In addition to access to statistics and market forecasts, dealer members will be able to tap into BITA’s historic strength in developing standards and lobbying government, thereby raising the profile of the whole industry with important legislative bodies.

2022 Campaign Initiatives 

National Forklift Safety Day – June 2022 

National Forklift Safety Day is an annual event that highlights the importance of best practice safety protocols within the material handling sector. Each year features a different theme. Started in the UK in 2019, previous campaigns have highlighted the importance of wearing seat belts or using other restraints when operating a lift truck, the safe segregation of workers from material handling equipment and the importance of Thorough Examination. The key message for 2022 has yet to be announced.

For more information, visit www.nationalforkliftsafetyday.co.uk

IMHX – 6-8th September 2022

IMHX is the largest event in the UK for professionals within the logistics, supply chain and material handling industries. It returns for 2022 as a live event following rescheduling due to the pandemic. As co-owner of the show, UKMHA will be using the event to highlight its work improving safety standards across the MHE sector as well as promote the advantages of association membership.

Safety Drive – October 2022

The Safety Drive campaign is designed to help businesses meet the fundamentals of safety best practice and training. Each week highlights a different theme and those subscribing to the campaign receive advice and guidance on the various safety topics, backed by a free online resource. 

For more information, visit www.ukmha.org.uk