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Manage to be safe

30 October 2013

Fork Lift Truck Association chief executive Peter Harvey outlines the key role managers and supervisors have to play in warehouse safety.

Managers and supervisors are under more pressure than ever before to deliver – taking on several roles and juggling often conflicting responsibilities. First and foremost, however, they are morally and legally obliged to protect the employees in their care.

Managers and supervisors must understand, establish and enforce good practice. They are responsible for noticing when the safety rules are being broken or bent, identifying potential accidents, and taking the action to prevent them.

They must select the staff, book the training, set the targets and, most importantly, influence the culture.

The role of management

Look through HSE accounts of serious incidents involving fork lift trucks and it’s quickly clear how important a role managers and supervisors play in creating safe sites.

A key aspect of this is communicating the dangers associated with truck operations.

At the FLTA, we believe that raising awareness of safety issues could be enough to significantly reduce the risks trucks pose to the estimated two million people who work with or alongside them in the UK.


Observing good safety practice is not just helpful – it is required by law. Lift truck operations are covered by at least 23 different sets of legislation, guidelines and regulations, including:

  • Health and Safety At Work Act.
  • Provision and Use of Workplace Equipment Regulations (PUWER 1998).
  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER 1998).
  • Rider-operated lift trucks. Operator training and safe use. Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (L117)


Only those who have been fully trained to operate a fork lift truck are allowed to do so and it is vital that everyone at your site is aware of this.

Employers must give written authorisation to each individual giving them permission to operate a specific truck in a specific location which is in line with their training. No one without this authority should get access to the keys.

Training should not stop there. While the importance of supervisor training is covered by the Health & Safety at Work Act, the recent update to L117 goes one step further – not just making a recommendation – but a solid requirement.

The HSW Act requires you to provide adequate supervision. It is essential that supervisors have enough training and knowledge to recognise safe and unsafe practices. This does not mean they need full operator training, but they do need to understand the risks involved, and how to avoid or prevent them. Some organisations offer training courses for supervisors and managers of lift-truck operations.


Supervisors should be able to:


  • Carry out an effective observation and know what to look for.
  • Communicate effectively with operators and line managers.
  • Recognise unsafe practice and behaviour.
  • Maintain and promote health and safety standards.


Just as supervisors need guidance to ensure they recognise potential dangers and respond appropriately to reduce risk, pedestrians also need to be aware of the hazards associated with fork lift truck operations and the actions necessary to protect themselves and colleagues. 




There should be a formal regime for checks, maintenance and inspections in place which is enforced by supervisors. All checks – whether daily, pre-shift or weekly, should be scheduled, carried out properly and recorded.

The revised L117 guidelines state that, at the beginning of each shift, operators should check their lift truck in accordance with the vehicle handbook, and document the findings. 

Any defects identified which could affect the safe operation of the vehicle must be reported to a supervisor to ensure they are fixed. Importantly, trucks should not be used when faults affecting safety are discovered.

Resources to assist in vehicle checks – including guides, checklists, and pads of inspection forms – are available through the FLTA online shop.

A regular Thorough Examination – a compulsory test different from regular maintenance – should also be scheduled at intervals specified by the examiner (at least annually). Find out more at www.thoroughexamination.org

Site design

A site’s design significantly affects the likelihood an accident. For example, if loads will be carried through doorways, entrance points must be high enough to allow clear visibility and unimpeded access.

Sites must be designed with the segregation of fork lift trucks and pedestrians in mind. Managers should consider safe site strategies, such as one-way systems and clearly designated pedestrian routes.

Good housekeeping

Risk assessments enable you to understand how fork lift trucks practically interact with the workplace. These should be checked regularly. The FLTA recommends six-monthly reviews, and whenever the application changes (eg trucks, locations, etc).


  • Site layout and conditions.
  • Equipment type and specification.
  • Maintenance regimes.
  • Operator training, monitoring and discipline.
  • Risk to pedestrians.

It is also essential that supervisors create a set of routines and policies designed to allow safe operation. Above all else, it is important that supervisors have the skills to recognise bad practice and are given the authority to deal with it.


Fork lift truck safety made simple

The Fork Lift Truck Association Safe User Group has been developed to give you the practical, effective advice you need to keep your colleagues safe and ensures you are updated with changes to legislation and best practice.

With self-certification and exclusive safety resources, your commitment to safety is clear: making your workforce aware of their responsibilities and giving confidence that you take safety seriously.

Joining the Safe User Group is quick and easy. Take a minute to sign up online at www.fork-truck.org.uk to ensure your workforce benefits in the months and years ahead.

Multiple sites? Not a problem.

Join now and we’ll send safety packs to up to five of your organisation’s sites – free of charge. If you have more than five locations or would like to find out more about the Safe User Group, please get in touch.