The three principle areas of health and safety concern that any employer wanting to ensure that forklift truck accidents don’t occur on their premises needs to address are:
1) Selection, training, supervision and managing of operators
• Ensure training meets the minimum required level and is specific to the forklift truck and tasks to be carried out. Carry out ‘conversion training’ if the operator is to operator a different type of forklift truck to the one initially trained on.
• Ensure that trainees are medically fit to drive a forklift and institute medical examinations for operators prior to training and at regular intervals during their forklift truck driving career. There is a long list of physical and psychological conditions that might preclude a person from driving a forklift truck.
• Ensure that they identify themselves as reliable, mature and responsible employees before selection for training.
• Ensure that trainees’ supervisors are familiar with the training regime and guidance.
• Ensure that the trainees’ managers fully appreciate all the risks associated with the operation of a forklift truck and have taken all recommended steps to minimise them.
2) The working environment
• Take all steps to avoid accidental injury to pedestrians, who statistically make up 70% of the total killed or injured in forklift truck accidents. This can be done by either completely segregating forklift trucks from pedestrians or taking the following measures:
• Issuing high-visibility clothing to pedestrians.
• Ensuring that the aisles and gangways are wide enough for a forklift truck to pass.
• Installing adequate lighting and avoiding situations where the forklift driver would be blinded by sudden glare.
• Training pedestrians in forklift truck awareness.
• All doorways to be constructed from flexible, transparent material.
• Ensuring that the flooring is level and firm and free from potholes and even small piles of debris.
3) The forklift truck
• Maintain in good mechanical order.
• Ensure it is fitted with roll-over protective structures and falling object protective structures (issue a hard hat to the operator as a further precaution).
• Ensure that it is highly visible to the pedestrians – it should have a flashing light and make a distinctive warning noise, even if that is only the operator sounding the horn.
• All dangerous moving parts should be fitted with a guard.
• Operated at all times in such a manner as to preserve the stability of the vehicle.
Having successfully addressed those areas, the employer can be confident that they will have diligently discharged their duty of care to ensure as far as practicable the health, safety and welfare of their workers with regards to the safe operation of forklift trucks in their workplace. Being able to demonstrate that they have discharged this duty of care and complied with all the workplace health and safety legislation currently enacted might go a long way to eliminating the risks posed by forklift truck operation or help in defending claims for injury compensation brought by employees injured due to a forklift truck accident.
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