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New standards will boost warehouse safety

Accrediting body calls for employers to catch up with new testing standards for powered pallet trucks.

Powered pallet trucks (PPTs) are among the most commonly used pieces of handling equipment in any warehouse … and some of the most dangerous. Every year many hundreds of operators using them suffer serious injuries including strains, trapping and fractures.

But new testing standards should go a long way will ensuring safer and more efficient operator performance… as long as employers play their part.

According to Adam Smith, Managing Director of leading accrediting body AITT, most incidents can be attributed to a lack of adequate training. “Many employers still believe that operators of PPTs and stackers do not require any formal training,” he explains.

“But, under PUWER regulations it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that staff receive suitable and sufficient training. Since that has been codified by the ABA* (Accrediting Bodies Association) it is the benchmark against which the employer will be judged in the case of an incident that is investigated by the HSE.”

And the penalties for failing to train are severe. One supermarket giant was fined £1 million for ‘providing insufficient training’ when an employee lost two toes in an accident involving a powered pallet truck.

Indeed, such is the importance of training for users of PPTs that on 1st December 2019 the ABA introduced new and tougher standards for testing the basic operating skills for rider and pedestrian pallet trucks and stackers (Category A).

The format for the new standards is based on those agreed in recent years for counterbalance trucks. As a result, the test is now nationally consistent, more rigorous and more compatible with other categories of equipment. 

“The new testing standards target habitual bad practice,” says Adam. “Those repeatedly committing the same safety-related fault will fail the test’s practical element and require further training.”

In broad terms, changes to the regime will affect four aspects of the test:

•            Pre-shift and daily checks: Elements of the pre-inspection will now be mandatory. This was not the case previously.
•            Heavier penalties: Certain serious faults will now carry penalties of five points. If a candidate incurs more than three five-point penalties in any one category, it will  be an automatic fail.
•            Tougher scoring: Increases in penalty points from three to five make it easier to accrue more than 40 penalty points, and, therefore, fail the test.
•            Theory: While the theory test paper has the same number of questions as before, there are now four multiple-choice answers, rather than three. Five of the questions are mandatory and therefore must always be included. In the 20 multiple-choice questions, 10 must be safety related and 10 must be operational.

“The introduction of relevant, challenging and common testing standards across all accrediting bodies creates the perfect platform for employers to improve safety in their workplaces – whilst also enhancing efficiency and productivity,” adds Adam. “The bigger challenge lies in convincing employers of the requirement to provide training on powered pallet trucks and stackers.”

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