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Where does the buck stop?

23 October 2015

A survey carried out by the Fork Lift Truck Association has revealed that 84% of supervisors and managers that hire fork lift trucks incorrectly thought that the hire company was at least partially accountable for ensuring their truck holds a current Report of Thorough Examination…when the obligation actually lies with them.

CFTS Chairman Mike Mathias explains the facts: "Under Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), the employer of a fork lift truck operator has a duty of care to make sure that a fork lift truck in use is safe.

"When a truck is owned outright by the employer, that implication is clear: the employer must arrange a regular Thorough Examination schedule appropriate to the truck and its use.

"But many trucks are supplied through a long-term hire/lease arrangement and the hirer may incorrectly assume that this mandatory obligation is covered under the maintenance contract… when it is not.

"When a truck is hired or leased long term, employers remain duty-bound to ensure that lift trucks are safe for their employees to use and are thoroughly examined at the appropriate intervals.”

Mr Mathias continues: "The responsibility changes when a truck is rented on a short-term basis, aka casual hire. The rental company, as the owner of the equipment, is responsible for arranging Thorough Examinations.

"However, the employer of the operator still has a duty of care and must still be satisfied that the truck is legally compliant. Usually, this means ensuring that a copy of the Report of Thorough Examination is included with the rental documentation.”

In recent years, the pressure on employers of fork lift truck operators has grown significantly. Following the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, the HSE has put the responsibilities of managers and supervisors into even sharper focus with the publication of L117: Rider-operated lift trucks. Operator training and safe use. Approved Code of Practice and Guidance.

The introduction of FFI (Fee For Intervention) has further compounded this – giving the HSE the right to charge companies for the cost of carrying out an inspection where a breach of law has been identified – whether knowingly or unknowingly.

And that doesn’t come cheap…The cost of such an intervention can be as much – or more – than the ensuing fine…

To protect yourself against the risk of prosecution, it makes sense to seek advice and to work to standards that unambiguously satisfy current regulations.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the area of fork lift truck Thorough Examination. The responsibility for Thorough Examination, when it should be done and exactly what should be examined is specifically covered by legislation, but a combination of a lack of knowledge and clarity has led to a situation whereby many companies may be breaking the law – albeit unwittingly.

Cutting through the confusion

To the surprise of many, there is no single piece of legislation that deals with the Thorough Examination and inspection of fork lift trucks. Instead, they are covered by two separate pieces of legislation.

According to the HSE: "Thorough examination of industrial lift trucks is required under health and safety law: LOLER 1998, which covers lifting equipment, and PUWER 1998, which deals with all other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres.”

Despite the legislation spelling out quite clearly that both LOLER and PUWER are required by law, unlike an MOT on a car, there is still a fair amount of room for interpretation, leaving individual examination providers able to decide exactly what should and shouldn’t be included in a Thorough Examination.

As a result, all Thorough Examinations are not created equal and, despite the best intentions of the fork truck operator, safety critical elements may actually be missed, rendering the fork truck dangerous and in breach of the law.

To overcome this situation, the two leading organisations in the fork lift truck industry – the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) – joined forces to create a single inspection procedure available to truck users, wherever their industry or location.

The resulting organisation, CFTS, established a comprehensive procedure and strict code of practice – giving fork lift truck users a consistent, safe national standard certain to fulfil the requirements of both LOLER and PUWER, backed by dedicated training of competent persons, unparalleled technical back-up and complete traceability via paperwork bearing a hologram.

Uniquely, the whole framework of the CFTS scheme was dedicated exclusively to the inspection of fork lift trucks (by those who understand the equipment best). Every bit as important, and like an MOT, the resulting inspection checklist is both comprehensive and very specific.

More than ten years on, the CFTS scheme has proved a remarkable success. Well over 400 companies are now accredited to the scheme – each immediately identifiable by its use of the kite-mark accreditation logo.  So, whether you are responsible for one fork lift truck or one hundred, and whatever your location, you can be assured there is someone close by who will carry out a truly thorough Thorough Examination.

But CFTS’ role doesn’t end there. To help cut through the confusion, its website (www.thoroughexamination.org) allows you to calculate how often a Thorough Examination is required. Unlike a car, fork lift trucks are due for their first Examination after a maximum of 12 months (and maybe even sooner depending your specific equipment and application.)

On the website, you’ll also find an interactive function to help you identify what exactly what should be covered by a Thorough Examination on your particular type of truck… and an entertaining video which highlights what can happen if you settle for half a job…

For managers and supervisors, keeping compliant has never been so tough. Moreover, with a growing trend towards extending hire agreements beyond the traditional five-year term and holding onto owned equipment much longer, a schedule of properly conducted inspection is paramount.

To make sure you are on the right side of the law and to find out all about Thorough Examination, call our Technical Managers - Shaun Prendergast 07730 768668, or email shaun@thoroughexamination.org. Shaun covers the north of the UK, Ireland and Scotland or Matthew Kennedy on 07739 638866 or email matthew@thoroughexamination.org. Matthew covers the south of the UK, Wales and Channel Islands.

CFTS: The national standard

During a CFTS Thorough Examination, a Competent Person will undertake a comprehensive examination which will meet the requirements of both LOLER 98 and PUWER 98. 

Under LOLER 98, the truck’s lifting equipment will be inspected, including: 



Tilt mechanism



Load guard

Attachments/side shift (if fitted)

Hydraulic system

Rating plate

In addition, other vital, safety-related components will be checked to meet PUWER 98, such as:

Overhead guard


Wheels and tyres


Seat mountings

Safety equipment

Traction system


Employers: please ensure that your current provider inspects all these items before agreeing to let them carry out your next Thorough Examination.