Throughout the pandemic, the HSE has made no exceptions or exemptions for novice or conversion training, due to the risks posed by forklift trucks if operated incorrectly.
It has made clear that “the duty remains to ensure that staff are trained and competent to operate any industrial lift truck equipment”, a stance reiterated by Accrediting Bodies Association founder members AITT and RTITB, in a recent statement regarding the continued need for all forklift operator training throughout the second national lockdown.
Every year there are 1,300 serious forklift accidents in the UK, which have devastating consequences for the individuals and businesses involved. And the risk of an increase in these figures becomes higher as companies’ staff levels, site layouts and procedures continue to change as a result of the pandemic.
MHE training and safety awareness therefore remain essential, to ensure operators and managers understand, and stick to, best practice. But with a wealth of guidance and legislation to navigate, the volume of information on the subject can seem overwhelming.
As a baseline, there are several key pieces of legislation that those responsible for forklift safety should be aware of to ensure compliance and reduce the risk of accidents on site.
A core piece of legislation for those utilising MHE is the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASAWA), which forms the basis for all UK Health and Safety law.
Under the HASAWA, employers have a general duty of care to employees, as well as site visitors or contractors. Employers must take the relevant measures to ensure safety ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, which includes providing a suitable working environment, appropriate training and safe equipment. Employees have responsibilities under the HASAWA, including working safely, and using only the equipment they have been trained to use, in the way they were trained to use it. Sections of HASAWA also target managers, highlighting their role in actively upholding safety.
PUWER applies to all work equipment, requiring that it is fit for purpose and that users, supervisors and managers have received adequate training, including how to use the equipment, the risks involved during operation, and the precautions that need to be taken.
Where PUWER is general, LOLER applies specifically to the suitability of lifting equipment. According to LOLER, every operation involving a lift truck should be properly planned, supervised, carried out in a safe manner, and the operator must have the appropriate training and expertise for the task.
LOLER also requires that lifting equipment be inspected every 12 months. However, the intervals between inspection may need to be shorter if it is to be used in certain ways or environments (e.g. to lift people). A qualified Competent Person, such as those accredited to the CFTS scheme, can determine a suitable schedule for Through Examinations.
The definitive reference point
If in doubt, managers and operators alike should refer to Approved Code of Practice (L117), the definitive guide to forklift training and safe use.
L117 has special legal status so, in its own words, “If you follow the advice you will be doing enough to comply with the law…” This makes it a must-read document for those managing forklift operations as, if you are prosecuted for a breach of Health & Safety law and it is proven that you didn’t follow the relevant provisions, a court will find you at fault (unless you can show that you have complied with the law in some other way).
Amongst an all-encompassing range of topics, L117 covers safe use, inspection, segregation, authorisation to operate and outlines standards required to meet training obligations as an employer.
What’s more, while this guidance is written with rider-operated forklifts in mind, relevant sections can also be applied to pedestrian-operated or stand-on powered pallet trucks, making it an invaluable reference point for anyone responsible for the use of MHE.
Don’t get caught out
It’s vital that everyone working on or around forklift trucks understands the dangers and can contribute towards reducing risk on site. Not only could unsafe operations lead to accidents and serious injuries, failing to meet your obligations could also result in significant fines or even prosecution. As of recent years, penalties for health and safety violations are based on a scale which factors in criteria such as culpability, and it has not been unusual for fines to exceed £1 million. And that’s before you consider the internal costs of damage, delays and disruption, as well as the intangible effects, such as reputational damage to your business.
Keep a watchful eye
If you’re responsible for forklift trucks on site, ensuring that you understand and follow the guidance is a vital step towards ensuring you, your colleagues and your business stay safe and productive.
In the current rapidly changing circumstances, managers play a key role in ensuring that safety remains a priority amongst other operational pressures. As the HSE stated in their original guidance on operator training and supervision during the pandemic: “[Employers or duty holders] should also be able to demonstrate that they are meeting their legal duty to monitor and supervise lift truck drivers to ensure that they continue to operate safely.”
It’s crucial that managers fully understand the requirements for safety and how to meet them. For those in need of further guidance, our specialist Managing Forklift Operations training course ensures that those overseeing forklift operations understand their responsibilities and can effectively monitor, identify and correct any bad practice before it becomes the norm.