Killer in the warehouse

July 07, 2014 by Kirsty Adams
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In this month’s column from the Fork Lift Truck Association, FLTA chief executive Peter Harvey MBE explains the thinking behind this year’s Safety Week in September and urges everyone to take part.

There are many things we can achieve in our workplaces within our lifetimes. We can take pride in working hard, in increasing our team’s morale and productivity, in making lifelong friendships, or in just being punctual for work every day.

But for anyone involved in supervising or managing fork lift trucks, the single biggest challenge is to make a real difference to safety levels in our places of work and, by doing so, make sure our colleagues leave at the end of each day in cars and not in ambulances.

The statistics are damning. Each year there are more than 800 accidents in the workplace involving fork lift trucks. Due to their nature and size, it’s hardly surprising that most injuries inflicted by trucks are serious and life-changing events that require hospitalisation – including long-bone fractures, dislocations and amputations.
By far the most dangerous workplace equipment, fork lift trucks account for a quarter of all workplace transport accidents, with workers twice as likely to be injured by a forklift than they are even by an LGV.

We must address this situation more determinedly than ever, and this year’s Safety Week (22-28th September) is designed to do just that, with the Safety Conference on 24th acting as the key focal event for our endeavours.

In readiness, the FLTA has been working closely with representatives from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Safety Conference sponsor Briggs Equipment, SHD Logistics magazine, and with other leading bodies and experts within the materials handling industry to identify the key issues facing owners, operators and the many colleagues who work alongside them.

For, while it is tempting to think of the truck itself as the “killer in the workplace” every bit as dangerous is a culture that allows bad practice go unchallenged because people are scared to report it or don’t see it as their responsibility to do so.

The aim of both Safety Week and the associated conference is to present companies of every size with a framework that allows everyone on site to become involved with improving fork lift truck safety in a positive “no blame” environment.
What better way to achieve that than to call upon the very companies who have already analysed the problems and developed strategies, mechanisms and deliverables to bring about profound and deep-seated change?

Delegates to the Conference will, therefore, benefit from the experience of their peers in a series of frank and practical presentations. Among them will be Briggs Equipment, who will explain how their “Safety Gains” campaign created a framework for change, and the enabling environment that allowed it to flourish. Similarly, Babcock Marine will reveal details of its much admired and award-winning “total engagement” strategy.

Throughout a packed Conference programme, the emphasis will be on providing managers and supervisors with practical advice that has been shown to work in a variety of different industries – with some of the quick wins that are so important in nurturing any new initiative.

Surrounding the conference – and continuing long after it – Safety Week will once again seek to shine a spotlight on the issue of fork truck safety and will provide interesting, relevant and interactive resources that will encourage the widest possible audience to engage in identifying “the killer in the warehouse”.

Among the materials being developed in association with Mentor, the UK’s foremost provider of operator training to the materials handling industry, is a series of hazard perception tests which will encourage anyone involved with fork trucks to test their knowledge and discover ways to improve it and enhance their personal safety.  

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