FORK LIFT TRUCK SAFETY
We regularly remind clients of the hazards presented by FLT operations and the wearing of seat belts has been brought into focus by a couple of cases last month, sadly with fatal outcomes.
A Lincolnshire tyre firm has been fined £300,000 after a worker died when the forklift truck he was operating overturned. He was not wearing a seatbelt and when the truck overturned, he was crushed between the vehicle and the ground. He later died of his injuries.
Another company was fined £450,000 over the death of a 19-year-old whose forklift truck (FLT) overturned. They had also failed to report another serious FLT accident three years earlier.
In the second case, the employee had been working the nightshift at the plant’s plastic extrusion department. At 4.20am he drove a FLT down a sloping concrete roadway into the external yard to collect some pallets, but did not return. The FLT had overturned despite being fitted with a system of active stability (SAS). The employee was not wearing his seatbelt and the truck’s safety frame landed on his neck, fatally injuring him.
A series of safety failings were uncovered including lighting levels on the site, the state of the site, poor maintenance of the FLT, inadequate training of the employee and no policy regarding the wearing of seatbelts.
In respect of FLT use, Risk Assessment is the key tool in the drive towards a safe working environment. This includes looking at 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.
Safe Working Environment
- Roadways and aisles etc. should have sufficient width and overhead clearance (for loaded FLTs and for FLTs passing each other if necessary); road humps should be avoided; consideration could be given to a 1-way system if warranted; adequate lighting is essential.
- Pedestrians should be prohibited where possible, or risks assessed and controlled by the use of signs or barriers which are clearly marked (black and yellow diagonal stripes).
- Edges of loading bays etc. should be clearly marked or, where possible, fitted with barriers.
- Avoidance of sharp bends, obstructions, etc.
- Warning devices, mirrors etc. may be needed where barriers cannot be used.
- Structural features (particularly cast-iron columns in old mill buildings) should be identified, marked and protected (e.g. with impact barriers).
- Parking areas for FLTs should be provided in a secure or supervised area to prevent unauthorised access.
- Protection of personnel should be achieved by consideration of the following measures:
- Segregation of pedestrians from vehicles (barriers, marking of routes, warning devices).
- Audible warning devices on FLTs, e.g. horn, reversing bleeper.
- Flashing beacons on FLTs.
- High visibility clothing.
- Head protection, where there is a risk of injury from falling objects.
Equipment & Maintenance
Properly maintained trucks are vital and there should be a formal regime understood by all. This should consist of:
Daily Checks Properly recorded and supervised daily or pre-shift checks are carried out to ensure that the truck is safe to use. Some additional checks may be required weekly. Faults that may affect safety should be rectified before the truck is used. These checks should be carried out by the operator of the truck.
Preventive Maintenance This is routine maintenance, carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the truck. When completed with an inspection, it may identify potential problems before they occur and hence save time and money. These checks are usually scheduled by hours or months and are best provided through an agreed maintenance contract.
Thorough Examination This is a legal requirement similar to an MOT. It must be carried out by a Competent Person at least every 12 months and is different to, and separate from, maintenance.
Repairs There is no point in carrying out any of the above checks and inspections if remedial action is not taken to rectify faults as and when they are identified.
Training should be carried out in accordance with the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) No person to whom the code applies should be employed to operate a lift truck unless he or she has satisfactorily completed training and testing as described in the code.
Training should include the following stages:
- Basic training
- Specific job training, relating to the FLT to be used
- Familiarisation training at the workplace, under supervision.
Conversion training would be needed for operators going onto different FLTs.
Records should be kept of training and associated test results. Certificates of basic training are a useful, practical means of providing documentary evidence that relevant training has taken place and an appropriate level of operating ability has been attained.
Employers should continuously monitor the performance of operators to ascertain whether they might need refresher training. Indicators might be near misses, accidents or consistently unsafe working practices. This is especially the case if operators are occasional users, have not operated trucks for some time, or there has been a change in their working practices or environment.
It is recommended that refresher training take place between 3 and 5 years depending upon the operator’s use of an FLT.
In addition, if the FLT is used with an accessory designed for lifting people, the FLT and accessory need to undergo thorough written examination at intervals not exceeding six months.
Only authorised personnel should be allowed to operate FLTs. Authorisation should be:
- in writing
- confined to the type of FLT and work for which the employer has found the operator competent
- for a specified period.
Advice to Employees for reducing the risk of injury if their forklift overturns:
- If a seatbelt is provided make sure you wear it every time you operate a forklift truck. Adjust the seatbelt to ensure a snug, comfortable fit.
- If your feel the truck tipping over, brace your hands hard against the steering wheel and brace your feet into the floorboard of the truck.
- With both hands on the steering wheel, lean forward and use the steering wheel to support your upper body.
- Always lean away from the point of impact, e.g. if the forklift is tipping left, lean to the right.
If you need advice on this or any other matter, please contact us on 03456 446006.