According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are about accidents involving fork lift trucks per year in the UK, of which approximately 10 are fatal. This topic discusses the practical measures that can be used to ensure the safety of truck operators and other people using the workplace. There is no specific legislation solely for the purposes of fork lift truck safety, but there are a number of aspects of current legislation that have direct effect on the use of fork lift trucks at work. The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act HSWA sets the duty of the employer to provide safe plant and equipment, safe premises and safe co-workers, and to ensure the safety of others not employed by them.
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According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are about accidents involving fork lift trucks per year in the UK, of which approximately 10 are fatal. This topic discusses the practical measures that can be used to ensure the safety of truck operators and other people using the workplace. There is no specific legislation solely for the purposes of fork lift truck safety, but there are a number of aspects of current legislation that have direct effect on the use of fork lift trucks at work.
The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act HSWA sets the duty of the employer to provide safe plant and equipment, safe premises and safe co-workers, and to ensure the safety of others not employed by them. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations MHSWR set requirements to assess the hazards and risks that the worker may be exposed to, and to ensure that they are adequately trained and informed as to any risks to their health and safety.
The main requirement of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations PUWER is that all work equipment is suitable for the purpose intended and that it is adequately maintained and inspected. Regulation 4, giving a requirement to ensure the suitability of the fork lift truck for the purpose for which it is intended to be used.
Regulation 5, requiring that the fork lift truck is kept adequately maintained to prevent risks to health and safety. Regulations 8 and 9, expanding on the requirements under the HSWA for adequate instruction, information and training for all people having connection with the use and operation of fork lift trucks, eg the operators, supervisors, managers and maintenance operatives. Regulation 25, containing the duty to ensure the safety of people carried on the fork lift truck.
Regulation 26, requires certain types of fork lift truck to be fitted with the means to prevent it rolling over and causing injury to the driver. Regulation 27, covers the requirement to reduce the risk of those fork lift trucks not covered in regulation 26 from overturning.
Regulation 28, covering the general requirements to prevent self-propelled work equipment, such as a fork lift truck, from causing a risk to the safety of people while it is in motion. A fork lift truck is work equipment for lifting and lowering of loads and consequently needs to comply with the requirements set out in the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations LOLER.
Although all the regulations are relevant to the use of fork lift trucks, the most significant are the following, as stipulated by LOLER. The need to ensure that the fork lift truck is adequately strong and sufficiently stable to lift and, by implication, carry the load.
The need to ensure the safety of the equipment used to lift people, ensuring that a proprietary cage which was designed and made for the purpose is used.
The duty to properly organise lifting operations. The person in control of each lift, such as a slinger or the operator of the fork lift truck, should have sufficient competence and knowledge of the loads, local conditions and safe systems of work to ensure safe compliance with the general procedures laid down by the organisation in response to the risk assessment.
Under the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations , employers must provide a safe workplace by considering access ways, lighting, ventilation and general space requirements. It is also important that particular requirements relevant to the use of fork lift trucks are taken into consideration.
For example, the duty:. Under the HSWA, employees have a general duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their work. Further, employees have a duty to co-operate with their employers on health and safety matters. The MHSWR place a duty on all employees to use machinery or equipment in accordance with any instructions and training received, and to report any work situation that represents a serious and immediate danger to health and safety.
Fork lift trucks are used extensively throughout industry and are familiar features in many workplaces. They are very useful for transporting awkward or heavy loads for short distances, eg around a warehouse or workshop. Under no circumstances should anyone use a fork lift truck unless they have received adequate training specific to the truck from an accredited training provider. All fork lift truck operations must have their risks suitably and sufficiently controlled, as far as is reasonably practicable.
An adequate risk assessment should therefore be undertaken. The appropriate manager or supervisor should complete the risk assessment. They may enlist the help of individual operators in relation to the condition of the fork lift truck and the competence of workers to drive it.
The results of the assessment can be used to set up an action checklist based on the organisation's specific needs. A named manager should complete the checklist so that it is clear that management take the issue seriously and are taking positive action. Accidents such as tipping and rolling can result if the fork lift truck has a lifting capacity or lift height not suitable for the loads being moved. Consideration must be given to the working environment to ensure that the fork lift truck can operate safely in the area intended.
Suitability of the fork lift truck must also take into account the work station for fork lift truck operators. Poor ergonomics in the truck, such as seating and the position of controls, can also lead to back and upper limb disorders for regular operators. Accidents can result from faults occurring from inadequate servicing or maintenance defective braking systems and steering, incorrect tyre pressures, inoperative warning lights or signals, etc.
Incorrect tyre pressures will affect the stability and braking of the truck. Poor maintenance of warning lights and sirens or horns can also lead to accidents, eg if the driver fails to indicate when the truck is reversing, pedestrians could walk in the path of the vehicle. An obstructed traffic route, or one which is poorly lit or signposted, will increase the risk of accidents. The factors to consider here are:. Operating factors that could result in damage to the load itself, physical injury or even death to workers or other people in the immediate vicinity include:.
Noise can affect the driver's hearing or distract the driver's attention when the vehicle is in motion. When daily personal exposure exceeds 80dB A , a noise assessment must be conducted. The vehicle manufacturer must provide relevant information about the levels of the noise emissions from their trucks. This poses the risk of exposure to electricity, hazardous substances and potentially manual handling for trucks fuelled using propane cylinders.
Battery charging can be a hazardous operation because of the possible exposure to battery acid, which can cause burns, and because of the possible build up of explosive hydrogen gas. Fork lift trucks with an internal combustion engine can be run on petrol, diesel or liquefied petroleum gas LPG. Operations should be suspended in the event of rain, strong winds, fog, ice, etc, which could cause difficult driving conditions or adversely affect the safety of the driver and the performance of the operation.
Collision with pedestrians and static objects can cause damage to the structure of the building or fitments, such as storage racking. Safe systems of work should cover the use and operation of fork lift trucks. They will most commonly relate to the environment within which trucks are used, the way they are driven and operated, and the training provided for operators and those supervising truck operations.
If the operator has any doubt as to the safety of an operation using the truck provided, it should be reported to a manager or supervisor. One of the best ways of protecting pedestrians from being struck or crushed by a truck is to ensure adequate segregation of people from moving trucks. The best form of segregation is to eliminate pedestrians from where trucks are operating, however, in some situations, such as warehouses and storage areas, it may not be possible to exclude people completely.
The next best way of reducing risk of collision is to separate pedestrians from vehicles; physical segregation can be achieved by the use of barriers and separate doorways for vehicles and people. Where people are exposed to the risk of coming into contact with forklifts, it is necessary to use other forms of protection, eg:. Where there is a greater risk of injury from the fork lift truck, such as at blind corners and at intersections, mirrors can be provided and these areas should be well marked and signposted with barriers where possible.
Drivers should be instructed to sound their horns. Wherever practicable, the operation of fork lift trucks should be avoided at times or in areas where there are likely to be large numbers of people or in areas where members of the public are admitted. If it is necessary to use fork lift trucks in these situations, a banksman or other form of direct supervision should be used. The person supervising should act as a lookout to keep the path clear and free of people and any other obstructions.
If necessary, traffic rules should be introduced, supported by clear signage. Rules might include rights of way, limitations of where trucks can be driven, pedestrian only areas, and speed limits, etc. Care must be taken by the driver of the fork lift truck to ensure the safety of people close to the area of a load pick-up or set-down.
This is the time when there is the greatest likelihood of load shift or collapse. No load should be lifted or set down in close proximity to people unless they are actively involved in the lifting or lowering operation itself, are aware of the risks and are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment PPE. It is vitally important that no one, including those involved in the use of the fork lift truck, is allowed to pass under the suspended load, or have the raised load passed over them.
Before loads are raised, a check should be made for overhead obstructions, especially power lines. It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that fork lift trucks and other traffic can move safely around the working area or premises. A competent person should initially carry out a walk-through survey of the area where forklifts are to be used, making an assessment of the risks and noting any control measures that are already in place. It would be useful to obtain site maps or plans to mark the routes on.
It is a good idea to carry out a walk-through survey at regular intervals or when work practices or premises change to ensure that safety controls in place are effective.
To ensure that the fork lift truck can move about freely with the minimum risk of losing the load, it is important that there are suitable traffic routes.
Routes should be designed to ensure maximum visibility for drivers, especially at crossroads and intersections. When considering obstructions, it is also important to consider any overhead obstructions, particularly where these could pose a specific danger. These include:. It is important that correct lighting levels are provided in the work area so that both drivers, and others, have sufficient light for safe working.
Lighting should also be positioned in such a way as to minimise shadows that could obscure obstructions or hazards at crossing areas.
Changes of lighting levels should be considered, eg if the driver is driving from outside a building into a well-lit storage area. Some fork lift trucks use internal combustion or LPG-fuelled engines, which can cause harmful gases, vapours or fumes to be emitted during their use. Areas of use should therefore be adequately ventilated and diesel trucks should not be used in confined areas.
Any particularly vulnerable areas in which the fork lift truck will be used — such as flammable stores, fixed oil and gas tanks or pipework connected to them — should be adequately protected from damage. The best means is to ensure that the fork lift truck is kept far enough away from them to remove the problem altogether. However, where this is not practicable, there should be some form of substantial barrier or other protection to prevent damage in the event of a collision.
Loose materials should be made secure and suitably protected to avoid collapse if they come into contact with a fork lift truck during operations. It is important that the fork lift truck is used within the operating limits specified by the manufacturer, particularly safe working loads. Overloading will cause a fork lift truck to loose stability and should be avoided. Machines should be fitted with rated capacity indicators which provide a warning of approaching overload. Indicators are available for both trucks with fork arms and spreaders.
The stability of lift trucks is also affected by the forces generated when turning, especially at speed and on slopes and sharp corners. Lift trucks should not travel with raised loads. The danger of a lift truck being turned on its side is greater with the load in the raised position and the consequences of a load falling from a raised position are potentially greater.
Keep loads low and close to the centre of gravity. The driver should always take care when braking or changing direction, avoiding sudden actions which may cause the load to fall off or the truck to tip over.
The truck should be driven with the forks lowered to within mm 6 inches of level ground and the mast tilted slightly back. An elevated load reduces stability, which increases the risk of overturning.
BITA Safety Booklets
A range of Operator Safety Code Books are available from www. This booklet, as with the others, is intended to be used in conjunction with specific information, such as manufacturers' instructions and site procedures such as GN61 Planning and Management of Construction Sites for the Safe Use of Rough Terrain Telescopic Handlers. It includes all aspects of truck use that could be envisaged by a team of experts and should provide a great help in maintaining high standards of truck operation and safety. Operator's Safety Code for Powered Industrial Trucks This edition has been expanded to clarify certain rules, introduce a few new ones, and cover the limited use of trucks on public roads. Operator's Safety Code for Rough Terrain Lift Trucks Concentrates on rough terrain lift trucks of various configurations, used in all industries, but especially in agriculture and construction.
BITA analysis of recent RIDDOR reports show that, despite being a seemingly straightforward process, 1 in 25 cases concerning forklifts involved an incident which occurred when the operator was entering or exiting the truck. So how can you reduce risk in this fundamental area to improve forklift safety for all, ensure compliance and avoid costly accidents? Take a look at our top tips below:. A simple rule that should form part of any basic forklift training course is maintaining three points of contact when entering or exiting a truck. According to the rule, operators should keep either one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot on the truck at all times, until they are either in their seat or standing firmly on the ground.
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