Forklift Focus Can Help Build a Safety Culture

The very fact there is a ‘National Forklift Safety Day’ speaks volumes about the dangers of forklift driving. This safety-focused initiative, championed by the UK Material Handling Association (UKMHA), expresses the importance of operator training and highlights that being struck by a moving vehicle is the second most common fatality at work, with 25 deaths in 2020/21 alone.

Whilst it requires focused effort, forklift safety can do the heavy lifting within workplace health and safety management and has become the central focus of a whole safety culture within a warehouse, food and drink or retail environment.

It is essential that forklift safety regulations are followed. Forklifts are covered by various health and safety laws including The Health and Safety at Work etc Act (1974) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), both of which stress the importance of instruction, training and supervision.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) require all equipment users, including forklift drivers, to be adequately trained. Sites using forklifts must also be LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) compliant, ensuring competent people planning and supervise operations and commission statutory forklift examinations every 12 months (goods-lifting) and six months (people-lifting equipment).

The L117 Rider-operated Lift Trucks Approved Code of Practice is also a Health and Safety Executive safety code with special legal status.

Operators need to be aware of speed limits, pedestrian crossing places, blind spots, areas where lighting or sunlight could present a visibility issue and places where overhead power lines can endanger life.

They need to understand the impacts on vehicle stability of lifting different weights and dangers resulting from collisions with, or damage to, certain stock.

Potential accidents involve crushing, trauma and loss of limbs. These accidents could be a result of vehicle topple or tipping, operators falling off trucks not intended to carry passengers, lack of use of safety restraints, pallet falls and hitting pedestrians or other vehicles within the warehouse ‘environment’.

Employers should remember their duty of care extends to agency workers and not solely to employees. All require the same training and, if language barriers necessitate, access to visual training materials.

Other safety measures could involve fitting vehicles with reversing cameras, maintaining tight key control systems to prevent unauthorised forklift use, charging batteries only in well-ventilated spaces and regularly maintaining forklifts, whilst also monitoring for vibration or posture health impacts. Making everyone collectively responsible for spotting hazards can be advantageous.

Getting things wrong could mean death, injury and a hefty health and safety fine, even if it is only a ‘near miss’ incident. Financial penalties could be applied to a director or manager’s personal finances, if negligence has occurred.

Assess all risks, stay compliant and train, train, train. Prevention of forklift incidents is better than cure.

Call us today on 01274 515 747 or email us at mail@lwood.co.uk to find out how we can help.