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FLTA: Put safety first

17 October 2018

Each year, 1300 people suffer life-changing injuries as a result of lift truck accidents. To help us better understand the issues and challenges facing employers, Peter Harvey MBE, chief executive of the Fork Lift Truck Association, shares his thoughts.

While no one ever plans to have an accident, the reality is that accidents can and do happen. 

Nowhere is this truer than in the materials handling industry, where we see humans and lift trucks work side-by-side day in, day out. 

When this partnership goes as ‘planned’, it’s an exceptionally good one. However, when it goes off-plan, the results range from costly damage to racking and stock to hospitalisations, life-changing injuries or worse.  

It’s too high a human cost… and it happens more often than you may think. Every working day in the UK five people are seriously injured in accidents involving lift trucks.

Sad events like these leave a big wake: changing the lives of those involved, as well as friends, families and colleagues.

Employers are not immune, either. An accident can – in a split second – take a stable and successful operation into significant financial peril.    

But it gets worse because nearly every single one of those life-changing accidents could and should have been avoided.  

Use safety resources

FLTA Safety Partner Mentor has developed a number of free resources to support our efforts in raising safety awareness. These include the Refresher Training Risk Calculator, which helps employers assess refresher training risks. Mentor’s Show Your Hand kits have been downloaded by hundreds of employers to date and has helped sites of all shapes and sizes to strengthen non-verbal communication for a safer working environment. 

To access your free resources, visit www.mentorflttraining.co.uk today.  

It would be easy if we could simply blame the machine involved. However, innovations in forklift trucks design mean that mechanical failures are very rare.  

Human error, sadly, is not. With so many individuals and decisions involved in your lifting operations, it’s easy to stray from best practice… and into danger.  

It just needs one person – an operator, colleague, manager or supervisor – to lose focus and act without considering the consequences.  

Safety is a collective responsibility and each of us plays a significant role in ensuring everyone gets home safe at the end of a shift. 

The HSE makes it very clear that, when it comes to forklift safety, ultimate responsibility sits squarely on management’s shoulders. 

This means that should an accident occur on site involving workers you are supervising, there’s a reasonable chance that you could be held accountable.  

L117 (Rider-operated Lift Trucks: Approved Code of Practice) makes it clear that, as a manager, you have a legal duty to uphold safety and that includes: carrying out risk assessments and ensuring necessary action is taken and identifying training requirements among staff. 

As the person who ultimately influences workplace safety culture, you may have training needs yourself – so you’re able to easily identify bad practice and act upon it. 

Here are three effective measures which can help you in upholding your responsibilities.  

Appoint a safety champion

Management roles are never easy. With other duties and responsibilities to take care of, many managers spend more time in the office than on the work floor, overseeing operations. 

In such cases, appointing someone to take assume that responsibility, to actively advocate best practice and supervise fork lift operations, is crucial. Your designated safety champion will need to be: 

  • Committed to improving the safety of your fork lift truck operations; 
  • Willing to dedicate the time to supervise and oversee safety improvements Appropriately trained to take on a role of such responsibility 
  • Competent enough to identify and assess potential hazards in the workplace
  • Confident enough to lead internal meetings and act appropriately when bad practice occurs.

Train managers and supervisors

Your managers may hold ultimate responsibility for safe operations, but that doesn’t mean they need to be able to operate a forklift. 

What is crucial, however, is that they possess the skills and knowledge to adequately assess operational safety and take appropriate action where necessary. 

Training, crucially, gives them the skills and knowledge they need to meet their legal duty to uphold workplace safety. Specifically, they must: 

  • Understand all tasks performed and the risks involved
  • Oversee regular inspections of the site and equipment
  • Act to keep both in good shape 
  • Ensure practices are in place to minimise risk. 

Several FLTA members offer such training. Use the Member Finder at www.fork-truck.org.uk to locate one.  

Read L117

The short, well-illustrated HSE publication Rider-operated Lift Trucks: Approved Code of Practice (L117) is the definitive guidance for fork lift operations.

It outlines the seven main pieces of legislation regulating the use of industrial trucks and, in clear and concise language, highlights what you need to do to comply with the Law. Every fork lift manager should have a copy. Physical copies can be ordered from the HSE or the FLTA web shop. Alternatively, you can download a copy – at no cost – from www.hse.gov.uk.

Stay informed 

Keeping track of constantly shifting safety regulations, government legislation and best practice procedures is a tough ask, but help is at hand. 

The FLTA’s Safe User Group (SUG) has been created to keep forklift managers up to date on best practice and the latest changes to legislation.

In addition, they get: 

  • Heavily-discounted admission to the FLTA’s National Forklift Safety Convention and Awards for Excellence
  • Exclusive access to the FLTA’s comprehensive online resources 
  • Big savings on FLTA store items
  • Technical bulletins
  • And more

 To discover the full benefits, visit www.fork-truck.org.uk today or call 01635 277577.