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Managing to keep your site safe?

14 October 2019

Stuart Taylor, managing director of Mentor FLT Training reveals industry insights that highlight just how important a manager’s role is in keeping staff safe.

A recent Mentor survey of UK companies has found that almost half of those overseeing forklift truck operations have not had any formal training on how to do so — a significant proportion of which have no prior experience as an operator either.

To be effective, managers need to understand their responsibilities and, while they’re not required to be certified operators, the absence of any relevant training on the risks surrounding forklift use is particularly worrying. Especially given the responsibility they hold for the welfare of your most valuable asset — your workforce. 

Today’s managers and supervisors may have a multitude of KPIs and targets to meet, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that they are accountable for the safety of their teams, without whom these goals would be unattainable. After all, isn’t it the manager’s job to keep operations running smoothly — free from accidents, damage and disruption?

Even putting aside the life-changing impacts of accidents on those involved, managers’ responsibilities for safety must be a priority. It’s been proven time and again that a safe workforce is an efficient one, so those managing them should ensure that every ‘reasonably practicable’ measure is enforced to keep their business running safely and productively. They can’t do this without an underlying knowledge of the risks.

And since the latest sentencing guidelines came into force, there are further substantial financial repercussions to consider, with crippling fines for organisations who are prosecuted for failing to meet their responsibilities.

What’s more, it might not just be the company that is held accountable. Sections of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 specifically target managers and directors deemed negligent or who ‘turned a blind eye’ to dangerous practice. Unlike criminal law, you must prove your innocence by showing you took measures to comply — and the penalties are severe if you can’t.

Given the potential consequences, it’s essential that managers understand their responsibilities for safety but, as our survey shows, there are a number of problem areas where this knowledge (or the ability to apply it) is lacking. 

In support of National Forklift Safety Month, we’re highlighting these areas for improvement by releasing the results of our survey alongside some easily-applied best practice guidance. The guide will be available to download for free from the Mentor website from 1st October. It is designed to raise awareness amongst managers of the risks surrounding forklift operations and how to reduce them, for the good of themselves, their teams and their business.

Here’s a sneak peek of the findings, along with suggested measures that can be implemented at little cost — a worthwhile investment when compared to the cumulative cost of an accident.

Incomplete training

Thirty percent of respondents said their operators had not received all three stages of training as required under ACOP L117. 

Many companies ensure that basic training is completed. But without specific job and familiarisation training, operators should not be given authorisation to operate, as it is unlikely that they have the required knowledge to safely use their equipment in their specific working environment and job role. Completing these additional stages needn’t be arduous or costly, as they can be completed by the employer. Take the time to carry this out and don’t forget to document it. If you’re not sure what should be covered in training, see L117 paragraphs 55 to 66.

Lack of forklift and pedestrian segregation

One in three respondents said that on their site forklifts operate in the same area as pedestrians, with no segregation between them. 

On average, 1,300 injuries are caused by forklift accidents every year in the UK. Due to the size and nature of these vehicles, many are life-changing for those involved (whether victims, families or colleagues), and sadly some are fatal. To reduce the risk, it’s vital that physical segregation is in place, wherever possible, and Safe Systems of Work are enforced, to ensure safe working distances are maintained. Remember, statistically, those most at risk of injury from forklift truck accidents are pedestrians, so involve them in any forklift awareness training. Ensure that everyone working around trucks is aware of the risks and how to minimise them, not just the operators.

To download the full report, visit: www.mentorflttraining.co.uk

For a full overview of managers’ responsibilities, spotting bad practice and reaping the benefits of safe operations, our new Managing Forklift Operations course is now available (online and classroom-based). Visit www.mentorflttraining.co.uk/news/new-online-managing-forklift-operations-course for more information or call 01246 555222.