Stuart Taylor: Five ways to stay safe around forklifts

Safety First
- 4 Aug 2022 ( #1088 )
4 min read
Stuart Taylor
Stuart Taylor
Stuart Taylor is Managing Director of Mentor FLT Training Limited, the UK’s leading provider of training and associated services for all types of materials handling equipment and workplace transport.

For anyone who works around forklift trucks, safety awareness is vital. Indeed, in recent years, 43% of UK RIDDOR-reported forklift incidents all involved impacts with another person.

And now, with labour shortages affecting the logistics sector, businesses may need existing/temporary staff to cover unfamiliar roles or new starters to work alongside forklift operators for the first time. It’s crucial that pedestrians are able to work safely, as they are the ones most at risk, should a forklift accident occur. 

On average, 1,300 people are seriously injured in forklift accidents every year 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 the simple, cost-effective steps you can take to reduce accident risk, meet your legal health and safety obligations, and make sure everyone knows what they should – and shouldn’t – do on site.

1. Segregation

Forklifts and pedestrians should be physically separated, wherever reasonably practicable. Using physical segregation measures, such as barriers, designated zones or separate traffic routes to keep them apart, will significantly reduce risk.

Forklifts and pedestrians should be physically separated
Forklifts and pedestrians should be physically separated

Recently in the UK, a company was fined GBP600,000 after an employee suffered life-changing injuries from being struck by a forklift. The HSE’s investigation found that the company failed to implement traffic management arrangements, including vehicle segregation.

2. Assess every shared access point

When identifying places where pedestrians' and forklifts' paths may cross, be sure to consider all areas, including pedestrian access and egress points and the sides and ends of aisles where visibility is reduced. Don’t forget battery charging areas too, where forklifts may frequently enter/exit whilst others may be dismounting and charging their trucks.

3. Develop SSOW

Where total separation is not feasible and staff are required to perform tasks in a shared area, there must be other control measures in place to keep them apart.

Safe Systems of Work (SSOW) based on risk assessments of specific tasks will ensure that all parties understand how to carry out their duties safely, while maintaining suitable distances between forklift trucks and pedestrians.

Safe Systems of Work designed to keep pedestrians safe may include measures such as:

·       Demarcation – such as pedestrian walkways and crossings

·       Adequate lighting/blind corner mirrors – to maximise visibility

·       Audible warnings and beacons – fitted to trucks to raise awareness of their presence

·       Time rotation — try to schedule shifts so that forklift and pedestrian tasks are not being carried out simultaneously in the same area

·       Personal Protective Equipment – all staff should be wearing their PPE to ensure they are as visible as possible

·       Clear signage — instructions for drivers and pedestrians, displayed clearly in all relevant languages

·       Safe distance procedure - if a pedestrian approaches a forklift too closely, operator to switch off ignition and remove key.

Crucially, once created, SSOW must be shared with anyone who may be affected by them, including anyone who may need to pass through operating areas, however infrequently this may be.

4. Equip managers with the skills to monitor effectively

It is crucial that managers understand the need to monitor operations to ensure that SSOW are followed day to day and that any bad practice is rectified. There is specialist training available for those who oversee forklift operations, designed to ensure that managers and supervisors know how to meet their responsibilities for safety, and why this is so important. In the UK, be sure to look for accredited courses that help businesses meet the requirements of Approved Code of Practice L117.

5. Awareness training for pedestrians

Most businesses understand the importance of providing training for their forklift operators but many overlook those working around them who are most at risk of injury. There are many safety awareness courses available that can help pedestrians understand the dangers of working around forklifts, and the role they can play in minimising risk. Ensure that training is provided for any new starters working in the vicinity of MHE; for example, as part of inductions. Some training materials can also be appropriate for visitors who, although only on site temporarily, will need to be made aware of any risks they may encounter and how to stay safe on your site.

By developing a properly trained workforce that understands the risks, and a sustained safety culture that includes everyone, you can support all those who work around forklifts on site and create a safer workplace for all.

 

 

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