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Familiarity - the unfamiliar hazard

11 April 2019

In an interesting presentation, the Fork Lift Truck Association has warned about the dangers of familiarity in forklift operations.

Stuart Taylor, speaking on behalf of the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), told the Safer Logistics seminar theatre: “Complacency is often cited as a hazard around forklift operations. I don’t like the word, if you look it up in the dictionary it suggests smugness, and people on site are not smug.

“I prefer the word familiarity. This goes back to the biology of the human brain, which filters 2 million bits of information every second. If we tried to process all of this we couldn’t operate. 

“The Reticular Activating System (RAS) in the brain filters out the unnecessary parts, it automatically takes out repetitive stuff. This is helpful, but for forklift operators working in highly repetitive situations, the risk is that hazard perception is filtered out. But, of course, the risk or hazard has not gone away.”

Stuart says managers and supervisors should monitor operators regularly for signs of unsafe behaviour and tackle sloppy habits rather than reacting to incidents.

He suggests that companies should retrain and refresh operators regularly to make sure safety is front of mind.