Stuart Taylor is Managing Director of Mentor FLT Training Limited, the UK’s leading provider of training and associated services for all types of workplace handling and transport equipment.
For anyone who works around forklifts, safety awareness is essential. Indeed, in recent years, 43% of forklift incidents reported by RIDDOR in the UK all involved impacts with another person.
And now, with labor shortages affecting the logistics industry, companies may need existing/temporary staff to cover unfamiliar roles or new entrants to work alongside forklift operators for the first time. It is crucial that pedestrians can work safely, as they are most at risk in the event of a forklift accident.
On average, 1,300 people are seriously injured each year in forklift accidents in the UK. But with the right measures implemented and followed, these types of incidents can almost always be avoided.
Here, we take a closer look at simple, cost-effective steps you can take to reduce the risk of accidents, meet your legal health and safety obligations, and ensure everyone knows what they should – and shouldn’t. not – do on the spot.
Forklifts and pedestrians should be physically separated, whenever possible. Using physical segregation measures, such as barriers, designated areas or separate traffic lanes to keep them apart, will significantly reduce the risks.
Recently in the UK, a company was fined £600,000 after an employee suffered life-changing injuries after being hit by a forklift. The HSE investigation found that the company had failed to implement traffic management arrangements, including vehicle separation.
2. Assess each shared access point
When identifying where pedestrian and forklift paths may intersect, be sure to consider all areas, including pedestrian entry and exit points and the sides and ends of aisles where visibility is reduced. Also, don’t forget the battery loading areas, where forklifts can enter/exit frequently while others can dismantle and load their trucks.
3. Develop SSOW
Where complete separation is not possible and staff must perform tasks in a shared area, other control measures should be in place to separate them.
Safe Systems of Work (SSOW) based on specific task risk assessments will ensure that all parties understand how to perform their tasks safely, while maintaining appropriate distances between forklifts and pedestrians.
Safe work systems designed to keep pedestrians safe may include measures such as:
Demarcation – such as walkways and level crossings
Adequate lighting/blind spot mirrors – to maximize visibility
Audible warnings and beacons – installed on trucks to signal their presence
· Time rotation – try to schedule shifts so that forklift and pedestrian tasks are not performed simultaneously in the same area
Personal Protective Equipment – all staff should wear their PPE to ensure it is as visible as possible
Clear signage — instructions for drivers and pedestrians, clearly displayed in all relevant languages
· Safety distance procedure – if a pedestrian comes too close to a forklift, the operator must switch off the ignition and remove the key.
Basically, once created, the SSOW should be shared with anyone who may be affected by it, including anyone who may have to cross operating areas, however infrequently.
4. Equip Managers with the Skills to Monitor Effectively
It is essential that managers understand the need to monitor operations to ensure that the SSOW is followed on a day-to-day basis and that any bad practice is rectified. There is specialized training available for those who oversee forklift operations, designed to ensure that managers and supervisors know how to fulfill their safety responsibilities and why this is so important. In the UK, be sure to look for accredited courses that help businesses meet the requirements of the L117 Approved Code of Practice.
5. Awareness Training for Pedestrians
Most companies understand the importance of providing training for their forklift operators, but many overlook those who work around them and are most at risk of injury. There are many safety awareness courses that can help pedestrians understand the dangers of working around forklifts and the role they can play in minimizing the risks. Ensure that training is provided to all newcomers working near SME; for example, in the context of inductions. Some training materials may also be suitable for visitors who, even if they are only temporarily on the site, will need to be informed of the risks they may encounter and how to stay safe on your site.
By developing a properly trained workforce that understands the risks and an enduring safety culture that includes everyone, you can support everyone who works around site forklifts and create a safer workplace for everyone.