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Safety in numbers: National Forklift Safety Day

Reducing the number of incidents in logistics where workers are injured due to impacts with fork lift trucks, will be the focus of this year's National Forklift Safety Day, as David Goss, technical manager of BITA, explains.

Looking at reportable forklift truck incidents over the last few years reveals that 43% of cases are impacts with a third person. Of these, almost two-thirds (65%) were pedestrians engaged in activities unrelated to the immediate truck operation, 20% of the victims were co-workers or supervisors, while 15% were delivery drivers watching, or assisting, with the loading or unloading their vehicle. 

In a recent hearing at Luton Magistrates’ Court, mail carrier, UK Mail was fined £400,000 after it admitted breaching Section 2, of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The court heard two employees had been injured by fork lift trucks in two separate incidents. In the first, an operations administrator sorting returned parcels was struck by a fork lift truck, resulting in them sustaining a fractured skull and bleed between the skull and brain. In a separate incident, a warehouse operative was inspecting a parcel when a fork lift truck hit the left side of her body. She suffered nerve damage to her left arm and superficial leg and hip injuries. 

Effective segregation 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to ensure that there was effective segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. There were no pedestrian walkways for employees to navigate across the warehouse safely. 

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector, Roxanne Barker, said, “The company failed to properly manage workplace transport in the warehouse area. The systems in place were not safe. Adequate control measures were not identified or implemented, and effective segregation was not in place, nor, even adequate walkways. The incident heightens awareness of the need to properly assess and control the risks to employees from workplace traffic movements and a reminder that these types of failures can lead to life-changing injuries.” 

Finding a solution

Sadly, this is just one example of a court case being brought against a company after a serious breach of safety protocols. Clearly this situation cannot continue unchecked, which is why the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) has opted to highlight the matter as part of this year’s National Forklift Safety Day. Therefore, the theme for this year’s campaign – which will take place on Tuesday 9 June – is the concept that management is responsible for protecting pedestrians from materials handling equipment. 

The purpose of National Forklift Safety Day – which will be supported by a BITA Thought Leadership event on the day – is to raise awareness of safe working practices amongst anyone working on or near, materials handling equipment. The message for 2020 is that for all sites where materials handling equipment is in operation, effective systems must be in place to keep pedestrians and co-workers safe from collision with such equipment – and the best way of ensuring this is by physical separation. 

Use of operator restraints 

Following a number of fatalities where forklifts have tipped over, but the operators were not wearing their seatbelts, last year’s inaugural UK NFSD highlighted managements’ responsibility for ensuring that operator restraints are always used. The message received widespread support thanks to the support of BITA members and the wider material handling industry.  

We would like this year’s message to be even more successful, which is why BITA is expanding the scope of the campaign for 2020, helping to give NFSD a truly national profile. 

A source of information

A dedicated National Forklift Safety Day website is being created, which will host new videos commissioned for the event. This will contain a wealth of information to ensure firms can follow best practice and comply with all necessary safety requirements. Information will be provided on topics such as site layout, risk assessments and assistance systems, as well identifying sources of further information and guidance. 

The website will be freely available to the entire materials handling, warehousing and logistics industry, and this has been done in order to spread the message to as wide an audience as possible. Which is why we are calling on the whole industry to actively support the campaign and to encourage their customers, suppliers and other companies to do likewise. 

Established seven years ago by US counterpart, the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), National Forklift Safety Day highlights the importance of the safe use of forklifts and the value of proper operator training.  

BITA is urging its entire membership and the wider materials handling sector to support the campaign and to help with the association's goal of raising safety standards across the entire industry. 

David Goss reports.

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