Forklift safety is very important in busy workplaces such as warehouses and loading areas. You must have a strict set of rules and policies around the use of forklift trucks to ensure a safe working area. Our guide to using forklifts in the workplace highlights some basic health & safety steps that must be taken.
Forklift Accident Statistics
The British Safety Council reports that there are 5 accidents at work every day that involve forklifts which need hospital treatment. That’s over 1,300 serious workplace accidents a year. Most accidents and injuries involving lift trucks are caused by a lack of training.
Other reasons for forklift accidents include:-
- Operator error.
- Lack of knowledge about the equipment and the working environment.
- Bad truck maintenance.
- Poor lighting conditions.
- Inadequate gangways and unsuitable premises in which forklift trucks are used.
The majority of forklift truck accidents in the workplace involve pedestrians. In fact, 25% of all workplace transport injuries are forklift related.
Forklift Safety Legislation
Several pieces of legislation apply when it comes to the use of a forklift truck and employers and operators need to be aware of the relevant legislation from the following:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
- The Provision and Use of Workplace Equipment Regulations.
- The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare Regulations.
- The Noise at Work Regulations.
- The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.
Forklift Truck Training
It is against the law for anybody below school leaving age to drive a forklift truck. If the trucks are driven on public roads, then the operator must hold a full UK driving license. The truck must also have road tax and insurance.
Operators must have the right training which must be carried out by an accredited trainer. The training should be broken down into several stages and should at first be carried out in a safe area and not in a ‘real work operation’ situation.
It should include:-
- The basic knowledge and skills required to operate a forklift truck safely.
- Specific job training related to the knowledge of the work environment and any requirements in handling attachments.
- Further training ‘on the job’ under close supervision.
The trainee should be taught the function of all controls. They should also learn how to safely move the truck around. This should be done in a clear open space and can take several days.
After this, training can move on to real work areas. This is where the trainee should learn how to move the forklift in the area they will be operating. This should always be done under the close supervision of the trainer.
When the trainer is happy the person can operate the forklift safely, the driver can be left to work unsupervised.
Once an operator has been assessed as being fully competent, it is always useful to offer further training every now and again in the form of refresher courses. This is particularly important when an operator’s role has been changed. Training records for each operator must also be kept and updated regularly.
Other Safety Issues
Authorised Drivers Only
You should never assume that a person who is about to operate a forklift truck is qualified to do so. Keys to a forklift truck should always be removed by the operator at the end of their shift and kept in a safe and secure place to prevent unauthorised use of the vehicle.
All staff who operate forklift trucks should provide you with written proof of their forklift training. Anyone you think may be unfit to operate a forklift due to being affected by Alcohol or Drugs, or even due to illness should stop work.
Work Area Layout
All areas in which the forklift truck is to be driven should be kept as flat as possible and stay clear of obstructions.
All roads, aisles and gangways should be wide enough with enough clearance room overhead. It’s important to make all forklift routes free of sharp bends, which could cause problems if the operator is carrying a large and heavy load.
Where possible, a one way system should be created to avoid the risk of collisions. The area in which forklift trucks are operating should be free of pedestrians there should be clear workplace signs and warning notices.
Operators should have seat belts and the right protective clothing. For example, fluorescent jackets, safety boots, hard hats etc. Flashing lights and audible warning devices should also be fitted to the trucks if possible.
Regular maintenance, training updates and the reporting of any accidents or near misses are also needed to ensure the safety of the operators and any pedestrians.
A system should also be put in place where all operators know how and where to report faults, and any truck that requires maintenance or equipment replacing should be taken out of service until remedial work has been carried out and approved.
Improper Use of Forklift Trucks
All operators should be fully instructed as to the dangers of the improper use of fork lift trucks during their training. This should include not permitting passengers to be carried on any part of the lift truck and no work should ever be allowed where the person is standing on the forks of the lift truck or even a pallet which rests on the forks.
- You can find out more about warehouse health and safety in our easy to read overview. It looks at basic procedures as well as risk assessments.