Geoff Martin is Chairman of CFTS – the industry accrediting body for Thorough Examinations of materials handling equipment.
A recent survey conducted by Total UK found that some nine million UK drivers do not know when their car’s MOT (roadworthy) is due. That’s 28% of all drivers.
It would be interesting to see how similar the results would be if that same research was conducted among managers responsible for arranging periodic inspections for their forklifts (periodic safety inspection of lifting equipment is known in the UK as a Thorough Examination).
We’ll never know the answer, but what we do know is that it isn’t straightforward, but it is vitally important … for many different reasons.
By checking for deterioration and damage, a Thorough Examination, carried out by a competent person, could be all that stands between business as normal and a costly loss of production or, worse yet, a catastrophic accident.
In the UK, your certificate of Thorough Examination is also a vital piece of evidence should you ever be inspected by the Health and Safety Executive, the UK body responsible for enforcement of health and safety policy.
Each country has its own regulations and regulatory body so it’s wise to familiarise yourself with local legislation. Although, as we’ll discuss in a moment, it pays to meet or even surpass those standards.
Thorough Examination: what it is and how often it’s needed.
According to the UK Health & Safety Executive: "Thorough examination of industrial lift trucks is required under health and safety law: LOLER 1998, which covers lifting equipment, and PUWER 1998, which deals with all other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres. Your regular inspections as part of a preventive maintenance scheme or scheduled service are not a thorough examination."
In many countries, Thorough Examination (or your local equivalent) is required at least once a year from new, but the frequency actually depends on the nature of the application, so inspections may be required every six months or even more often. Factors that increase the frequency include the intensity of operations, corrosive environments and whether equipment is used to lift personnel.
The European Materials Handling Federation provides free guidance on Periodic Inspection of Industrial Trucks in FEM 4.004 at www.fem-eur.com, and, if you operate in the UK, you can find out how often you require a Thorough Examination and see what’s covered on different kinds of equipment at www.thoroughexamination.org
The knock-on effect
Chances are that your forklifts or warehouse trucks are vital parts of your day-to-day operation, which is why a regular health-check is vital in identifying and fixing faults before something goes wrong or develops into a much bigger, and more costly, problem.
But there’s a knock-on effect whereby an accident or breakdown is rarely a self-contained event. It has a much wider impact. As a minimum, you could be left without the equipment for a time, compromising productivity or delaying deliveries (possibly incurring penalties). It could involve replacing the equipment – either on a short-term or permanent basis – with all the attendant hassle, bills and additional delays.
If the fault leads to an impact/accident, there’s the cost of dropped stock to be cleared away and replaced. There could be damage to racking or the warehouse environment that necessitates closing off an area for repairs. Worst of all, it could result in a colleague getting injured or killed. Not only is that life-changing for the individual and their family, but you also face subsequent inspections, prosecutions, court cases and reputational damage.
A necessary evil … or a godsend?
Let’s be honest, most of us view our car’s statutory inspection as a box that must be ticked so we can carry on as normal. Instead, we should see it as an opportunity to avoid both accidents and avoidable mechanical failures; failures that could so easily have been caught via a periodic inspection.
A Thorough Examination does the same - but more.
So, even if you know when your next Thorough Examination is due, it makes sense to re-evaluate your normal provider and ensure that whoever carries out the inspection:
· Works to nationally agreed, accredited and policed standards;
· Fulfils the requirements of national legislation (in the UK this is both LOLER and PUWER as required by HSE);
· Uses the most accurate measuring equipment (such as chain gauges and fork gauges) to guarantee truly precise measurements of wear to key parts.
Those are the standards we demand from each of the 700+ depots accredited to the CFTS Thorough Examination scheme across the UK.