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FLTA: Be vigilant about lift truck safety

01 August 2013

Even after recent improvements in safety, workers in the UK are still seriously injured by fork lift trucks at a rate of at least one per day, says FLTA chief executive Peter Harvey. Frequently, these accidents have life-changing or even fatal consequences... and the real tragedy is that most are entirely avoidable. At the Fork Lift Truck Association we strongly believe that spreading basic safety knowledge – and acting upon it – could be enough to dramatically reduce the risks faced everyday by

Whether you are a company running just one truck or a fleet of hundreds it is vitally important that you are aware of the basic principles that could, quite literally, save life and limb. Anyone overseeing operations should be aware of the four areas which comprise the foundations of fork lift truck safety.

Fork lift trucks are dangerous if used incorrectly, and are subject Fork Lift Truck Association to three major pieces of legislation, making it your legal obligation – as well as your moral duty to your employees – to plan your operations properly before you even start. Risk assessments are key to this. In short, they require you to think through what you’re going to do. For example, what steps can you take to safeguard all staff (operators and non-operators)? Especially be wary of ‘just this once’ exceptions to your usual operations. Fork lift truck operations should be restricted only to those employees who have been authorised to carry them out. It’s essential that employees know who may and may not do this – and that this is strictly enforced.

Site layout is another important consideration for managers and supervisors. Ask yourself: is your site laid out in a way that minimises risk? How do you keep trucks and pedestrians apart? Special attention should also be paid to housekeeping. For example, a poorly maintained or untidy floor may cause trucks to swerve, or even tip over.

Whether a truck is diesel, electric or LPG, there are particular risks when it’s refuelling. Managers should ensure operators understand the dangers, and take them seriously.

The single most important element in fork lift truck safety is arguably the operator… so it’s unfortunate there are so many myths about training and selection.

Most adverts for fork lift truck operators insist upon a "fork lift truck licence”. The problem is there’s no such thing.

Every employer has a responsibility under Regulation 9 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98), to ensure that employees have adequate training before they use work equipment.

It is the employer’s responsibility to assess a driver’s skills, ensure his readiness for a specific task, location and equipment, and issue him with written authorisation.

There is no legal requirement for fork lift training to be refreshed after a set number of years, but drivers’ abilities must be assessed regularly, with additional training given as needed.

Remember to train managers and supervisors, who need to spot and rectify dangerous practice, and colleagues working nearby on foot, who will be much safer if they understand the particular risks involved.

The importance of looking after a fork lift truck properly cannot be overstated. Neglecting maintenance can have serious consequences on your operations, including breakdowns and unscheduled stoppages. Worse still, it can lead to serious accidents and put you at risk of prosecutions.

A sound system of daily or pre-shift checks is the cornerstone of good maintenance, ensuring essential fluids are kept topped up and potential defects are identified before they become a problem. Rather than waiting for faults to occur, a programme of planned preventative maintenance, scheduled in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations, should be followed.

Thorough Examination
While many employers are aware of the need for Thorough Examination, all available research indicates that there is still a great deal of confusion surrounding this statutory inspection. The operation of fork lift trucks is governed by two separate pieces of legislation.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98) applies to everything from photocopiers to motor vehicles, while the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER 98) covers anything used for lifting, including tower cranes and dumb waiters.

Whether a fork lift truck is owned outright or hired – even for a single day – users and fleet owners should be fully aware of their responsibilities.

At present, all fork lift trucks require a Thorough Examination – at least once every 12 months – as specified in LOLER 98. Importantly, it is not valid for a set period of time as there are different operational conditions which can affect how quickly important components wear out.

Many managers assume that Thorough Examinations are automatically covered by the hire agreement, but legislation clearly says that the responsibility lies with the company employing the truck operator.

For more information about Thorough Examinations, visit www.thoroughexamination.org.