Manage to stay safe

23 January 2013

Fork lift trucks are responsible for more workplace accidents than any other vehicle.The Fork Lift Truck Association's David Ellison suggests what needs to be done If you are reading this magazine, chances are that yo

Fork lift trucks are responsible for more workplace accidents than any other vehicle.The Fork Lift Truck Association's David Ellison suggests what needs to be done

If you are reading this magazine, chances are that you take safety fairly seriously. But can you be absolutely certain that you're operating according to best practice? If there's any room for doubt, now is the time to revisit your training.

We are now in the run-up to National Fork Lift Safety Week. Created by the FLTA to raise awareness of the potential dangers that the vehicles create, this year's will take place from 20th-26th September.

Readers of HSM may remember the drive from the last two years. The campaign was created in response to stubbornly high numbers of workplace transport accidents, of which fork lift trucks were, and still are, by far the biggest agents.

So far, the campaign has focussed on the people on the ground, asking them to remain aware of the vehicles at all times, and to take all necessary safety precautions.

To support this, the FLTA released some shocking figures. People living in the North of England are more at risk from injury, and that even taking the disparity in numbers into account, men are five times more likely than women to be involved in a fork lift truck accident.

The good news is that the shock tactics may be working. Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that during the period that the campaign has been running, accident numbers have dropped significantly: a drop of almost 25% below the average accident rate for the last eight years. While this cannot be directly attributed to Safety Week, it does suggest that the injury rate can be reduced, with some conscious effort.

But more does need to be done. There were almost 1700 recorded UK injuries in the year 2008/09 according to the HSE's provisional statistics. That's almost five a day and only includes injuries requiring at least 3 days off work or worse.

To help address this further the FLTA believes that managers and supervisors need to focus on being completely aware of best practice - and more importantly, put it into action.

Safe working conditions are everybody's remit. People working on the ground need to know that if they see something unsafe - covered signs, for instance, or fork lifts working in unsegregated areas - then it is crucial they inform their manager, or the person in charge of the company's health and safety.

However, it is the managers and supervisors who really need to be vigilant, day in and day out, and to bring your workplace in line with best operating practice. Of course to do this you have to understand what constitutes best practice.

This is where the FLTA can help, with some of our free resources described later.

It is also worth remembering that beyond the obvious imperative to protect staff, there are also fiscal and reputation implications for companies which do not operate an effective fork lift truck safety policy.

The HSE has placed an increasing emphasis on prosecuting companies who have suffered accidents as a result of poor safety planning. News stories of companies paying thousands of pounds in fines are becoming a regular occurrence - making their disregard for safety expensive and high-profile.

Managers who do not wish to lose money, reputation, morale and co-workers, then, will want to take Safety Week's core message to heart: safe practice is simply a matter of following guidelines - and businesses have a lot to lose through ignorance of them.

Free resources To that end, the FLTA have produced some free resources aimed directly at managers.

These include a workplace check list and a Powerpoint presentation to help them brief their supervisors and other key staff. These resources, and others, are available to download from the Safety Week section of the FLTA website throughout September: The FLTA also runs an annual Safety Conference taking place this year on the 22nd September.

Attending the Safety Conference is a simple way to get vital, up-to-date information on how to be safe in all aspects of fork lift truck use. As such, if Safety Week has made you rethink your own workplace policies, a ticket to the Safety Conference may be a worthwhile investment.

We can put resources out for people to use, and make sure that companies have access to best practice guidelines, but it is up to employers and employees to put them to use. Please help us to stop fork lift trucks killing and seriously injuring people.

National Fork Lift Safety Week runs from 20th-26th September 2010; the Safety Conference is on 22nd September. For more information: