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.
Security is a continuous process. It is important that all necessary policies and training programs are in place, but once implemented, it is essential that you don’t stop there. Any good initial work can quickly be undone without a plan to ensure the continuity of good practice over the long term.
As well as lack of training, the HSE attributes many accidents involving forklifts in the UK to poor supervision. Routine monitoring ensures operators continue to work safely, as they were trained, and keep bad practices at bay. However, in a recent study, over 50% of UK companies we surveyed said they do not carry out regular capacity assessments/monitoring of their operators between upgrades, unless they are prompted by a concern raised.
A reactive approach to security is dangerous and much more costly, for your staff and your business, than simple preventive measures. Proactive monitoring, on the other hand, ensures that complacency and bad habits cannot take root, greatly reducing the risk of accidents and injuries on the jobsite.
The question is, do managers have the time, inclination and understanding to effectively oversee operating practices? Here, we explore four methods that managers and supervisors can use to help them successfully monitor and reap the practical and financial benefits of a safer workplace.
1. Walk on the ground
The physical presence of a manager or supervisor has multiple benefits in terms of enhancing operational security. It’s important to see what’s going on for yourself and establish communication with your team so that safety conversations can take place. But your presence also demonstrates that safety is a priority within the company and that you are there to hold people accountable if it is not respected. Take the time to do this in person and use technology to facilitate (not replace) physical exams, where possible.
In the UK, although managers do not need to be certified forklift operators themselves, they must be able to recognize and rectify poor practice within their team. Overloading, speeding, pedestrians in unauthorized areas, poor sightings and not wearing seat belts are just a few examples of behaviors that can and should be stopped before they contribute to a accident.
Not only is it important to observe operating practices, but also to know who is carrying them out. Only employees who have been properly trained and authorized to use the equipment should be allowed access to MHE on site for their own safety and that of those working around them.
2. Integrate it into your KPIs
Aspects of monitoring are often part of established Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a company or individual. For example, while operators must complete pre-use inspection documents daily that will highlight any faults or damage to the truck, then it is the supervisor’s responsibility to review them and verify that they have been completed, in order to ensure that this key performance indicator is met. Think about the monitoring activities that need to be done at your site to make sure you are meeting your goals.
3. Make the most of your truck data
Some larger operations use fleet management software systems that are installed on all trucks to track usage data such as hours of operation, operator ID, speed, and sudden impacts. With a wealth of telematics data available, analyzing key metrics allows managers to supplement their own physical supervision with valuable additional insights into operator behavior around the clock. Having the information in this format also helps to spot trends and anomalies more easily, then address areas of concern.
4. Have multiple eyes on operations
CCTV can be a very useful tool to help monitor operating standards, as no one can be physically present in all operational areas, all the time. To get the most out of this feature, be sure to use it proactively as operational behavior insight, and not just after an accident. Based on telematics data, it can clearly highlight unsafe practices so they can be addressed before they cause a problem. Watch out for any complacency and corner cutting and nip it in the bud.
Support for managers
Backing up your policies, procedures and training with regular supervision significantly reduces risk and is a big step towards a safer workplace for everyone. As we have seen, a physical presence is essential, but there are many additional methods you can use to help you, giving you deeper insight and allowing you to build a more complete operational security picture on your site(s).
With a proactive approach, you can identify any additional training needs and prevent accidents in the first place, rather than preventing them from happening again once it’s too late.
For more information on operator supervision and other key supervisory responsibilities, there are specialized accredited training courses available for managers and supervisors that provide all the necessary skills and knowledge.