In the first of a two-part series, Tim Waples, Chief Executive of the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), explains the role of managers and operators in upholding onsite safety and best practice.
If there’s one thing more dangerous than a forklift in a vehicle recycling and dismantling centre, it’s complacency.
Handling operations are so familiar that we are easily lulled into thinking “accidents will never happen here” …but every year 1300 people working on or alongside forklifts are killed or seriously injured. That’s five every working day. And the injuries aren’t just bumps and scrapes, they’re fractures, crushes, degloving and amputations.
Almost every one of those accidents could have avoided by implementing some basic procedures. However, introducing them is only the first step. Procedures need to be constantly refreshed, reviewed and reinforced throughout the organisation.
Here, we have broken down some top tips and advice for managers and operators — as it is the actions of individuals that when combined lead to important cultural shifts towards safer practice that ultimately benefit a business and its workforce.
Management means all levels – from the managing director and department or functional managers, through to supervisors and shift leaders.
These individuals have ultimate responsibility. It’s a legal requirement for them to be competent in supervising forklift operations — which means being trained to understand their responsibilities and how to fulfil them. It is no good blaming an operator for poor performance when it is the duty of management to employ the right staff, provide training and supervise activities.
Risk assessment is a key tool in the fight for a safe working environment. This includes the layout and condition of your site, the type and specification of equipment used, the maintenance regimes, and the training, monitoring and discipline of your operators.
Remember, a safe manager:
- Understands the tasks to be performed and the risks involved.
- Sees to it that regular inspections of the site and equipment take place.
- Ensures that remedial action is taken to keep the site and equipment in a safe condition.
- Makes sure that work practices are designed to minimise risk.
- Knows that different types of materials handling equipment have different operating characteristics, and that it may be necessary to use different types of equipment for different tasks and/or locations.
- Maintains an awareness of developments in materials handling equipment so that best use can be made of the safest and most appropriate equipment for the task to be performed.
- Insists that maintenance is carried out in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations and that Thorough Examinations are carried out as required by current regulations.
- Acknowledges the requirement for operator training, and monitoring of skills and attitudes, and appreciates that if tasks vary and different equipment is to be used, additional training will probably be required.
- Is able to identify good and bad practice and has authority to take remedial action to rectify poor performance as quickly as possible.
Although managers have a key role to play, it is up to an operator to take responsibility for how they work day-to-day. Safe operators take training seriously and maintain high standards at all times.
Operators should not, for instance, operate types of equipment they haven’t been trained to use — and must not allow untrained colleagues to operate, or mess with, any kind of material handling equipment.
It is crucial that operators check their truck properly before every shift, report any defects and not use a truck that’s considered to be unsafe.
Operators should not take shortcuts but must observe good practice at all times.
Remember, a safe operator:
- Doesn’t speed.
- Doesn’t overload their truck (and checks the load capacity if they are unsure).
- Uses the parking brake as taught.
- Wears the seat belt (if fitted).
- Keeps well clear of pedestrians and potential hazards.
- Slows down when near pedestrians, trucks and other hazards.
- Takes particular care in loading bays.
- Respects their truck.
- Looks out for their co-workers.
Safe operators also understand that they and others are at great risk if their truck overturns, and will do all they can to avoid this happening. Some of the most common reasons for trucks overturning are:
- Travelling on slopes that are too steep.
- Going over slippery surfaces, such as oil or grease patches, ice, or just water.
- Trying to cross soft or uneven ground.
- Going over curbs, steps or other edges.
- Being overloaded or unevenly loaded.
- Going too fast, especially around corners.
- Carrying loads at a dangerous height.
In part two of our safe forklift operation guidelines, we will be looking into the main components of site and truck safety, with clear steps on minimising hazards in the workplace.
About the FLTA
The FLTA is the UK’s leading authority on forklift trucks. It exists to maintain and raise standards within the materials handling industry. The Association provides information and technical support to members, promotes best practice throughout the industry, and protects the interests of lift truck users.
Join the Safe User Group
Created by the FLTA, the Safe User Group offers expert advice, safety resources, updates on legislation and much more to support companies in improving safety on site. For more information on joining the Safe User Group, visit: www.fork-truck.org.uk