**FORK TALK** THE BIGGEST SAFETY ADVANCE IN YEARS

Feature Article
- 13 Nov 2003 ( #133 ) - LONDON, United Kingdom
10 min read
The following is an explanatory note about thorough examination (TE) provided by the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA).

In a move set to revolutionise safety in materials handling in the UK, TE will offer total confidence in assessing a forklift's condition. In doing so it will answer a pressing, long-recognised need within British industry.

To understand the significance of this breakthrough, it is useful to compare the process of safety testing in forklifts with that used for cars.

Imagine if there were no cohesive national system for assessing the safe condition of cars. Imagine if garages could decide for themselves how to carry out Ministry of Transport (MOT) (safety certificate) tests. Imagine if an MOT certificate issued by one mechanic was based on criteria and practices which differed widely from those used by another. Imagine if no one oversaw the process nationally and ensured consistently high standards.

That is precisely the situation which has applied to forklift examinations - in many ways the forklift's equivalent to an MOT certificate.

The new national TE scheme will fulfil all the requirements of the crucial LOLER 98 and PUWER 98 legislation. Underpinned by comprehensive quality assurance and accreditation processes, it is the result of whole-of-industry consultation and development.

It is being brought to the market by a new joint-venture company, Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), which has provided the following detailed responses to clarify how the scheme will work.

What is CFTS and what is the national scheme for TE?

CFTS is a joint venture between the two major industry trade associations in UK materials handling, the FLTA and the BITA.

Acknowledged as experts on TE, the two bodies represent manufacturers, dealers, suppliers of related products and, increasingly, users of equipment covered by the TE regulations. Their expertise has been combined, in co-operation with the Health & Safety Executive, to produce a unique scheme which carries the authority of the industry.

Its two keystones - an examination process developed by the whole forklift industry and a quality assurance procedural code (QAPC) - will bring major benefits to end users and operators.

The scheme aims to ensure uniformly high standards in the implementation of TE and, hopefully, improve safety across the entire British industry.

How will people recognise the national scheme?

Documentation associated with the scheme will bear a distinctive new mark. It will be seen as the mark of quality in TE. Its reassuring appearance calls to mind other industrial safety 'kite marks'. It incorporates an angle and an arc, denoting inspection, and a symbolised forklift which doubles as a tick of approval.

Only a company accredited to the scheme can use the new certification and quality mark. And only companies which have proved themselves capable of - and committed to - adhering to the strict CFTS QAPC can be accredited.

What is TE?

To remain with the analogy, it's like a car's MOT certificate, but much more stringent.

Both a TE and an MOT are means of certifying that, at the time of testing, all components which have a bearing on safety have been formally inspected and assessed as being in a safe condition.

Just as a car's MOT and 10,000 mile service are different, TE is separate from a forklift's regular maintenance program (even though in cars and forklifts some of the same items are included in both regimes). It is not part of maintenance - it is an examination embedded in legislation. As a result, TE would not normally be included in a maintenance agreement, unless specifically requested.

Is TE a legal requirement?

Yes. It is required under two pieces of health and safety legislation: LOLER 98 (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998), which covers lifting components, and PUWER 98 (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998), which deals with other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres. However, TE is more comprehensive: it doesn't stop at the bare minimum necessary to avoid prosecution.

As a user of such equipment, what are my obligations?

Every forklift you have in service, including hired machines, must have a current report of TE. This is akin to the MOT certificate. Unlike an MOT, it even applies to forklifts as young as one year old. Crucially, the user is responsible for ensuring a truck has a valid document.

The document must be headed 'Report of TE' and must comply with Schedule 1 of LOLER 98. You must be able to produce it when required to do so by an enforcement officer.

How often must a TE be conducted?

At least every 12 months. Depending on the application, the intensity of use and the nature of any attachments, the regulations may require the interval to be reduced to six or even four months. The person carrying out the TE - known as a 'competent person' - can determine the appropriate interval. The same person, or his/her employer, should also be consulted for advice on whether planned changes to the forklift's operation or configuration will alter the interval.

What is checked in a TE?

Items checked include brakes, steering, hydraulics, tyres, seat restraints and the horn. Detailed measurements are taken to identify wear and damage to chains and forks. Particularly close inspection is made of components such as the chain-retaining bolts, mast and carriage. The intensity of examination - and the time taken - is much greater than in an MOT.

What happens if something is wrong?

If defects do not immediately affect safety, a report of TE will still be issued. However, it will identify the defects and state a time by which they must be rectified. The user is responsible for ensuring the necessary repairs are undertaken within that time.

If the defects are imminently dangerous, the report will state that the equipment must not be used until they have been rectified. The report will normally be copied to the appropriate enforcing authority.

Who can carry out a TE?

Someone designated as a competent person under the terms of the regulations. To be designated, the examiner must have appropriate experience and training.

If TE is already required by law, why do we need a new scheme to deliver it?

After close consultation and wide-ranging investigation, BITA and the FLTA concluded that TE was not being delivered comprehensively and effectively. With no regulation, standards have varied greatly between examiners - and examinations have often been limited in scope. The results of these deficiencies may be expensive for businesses... and tragic for people. A more stringent scheme is clearly required.

What involvement did the FLTA and BITA have in TE before introducing the new scheme?

The FLTA and BITA have been the leading authorities on TE since its introduction.

In particular, BITA produced BITA Guidance Note GN 28. It explains in detail how TE of a forklift should be conducted and includes a checklist for the competent person. It has been taken as the basis for the CFTS TE. The BITA checklist has become part of the formal documentation used in the CFTS scheme.

The FLTA's work to date in promoting and explaining TE has included special training of nearly 1,000 engineers, now deployed by FLTA members. It also prepared an FLTA Technical Bulletin on the subject, aimed at educating users of forklifts. The FLTA also produced Report of TE forms, which have now been remodelled to meet the needs of the CFTS scheme.

Why is the CFTS scheme more authoritative?

First, it should be recognised that only people and organisations with close involvement in working with forklifts can claim the necessary intimate knowledge to deliver TE effectively.

The new system has been developed to offer a single, definitive process - and resulting quality mark - that has the backing of the two industry trade organisations dedicated to setting and raising standards in the forklift industry. In effect, that means it has the support of the materials handling industry.

Importantly, it has been developed in full co-operation with the Health & Safety Executive.

Drawing together the relevant requirements from the extensive and complex LOLER 98 and PUWER 98 legislation, and interpreting them precisely in relation to forklifts, has been a major undertaking for the FLTA and BITA. It has taken 18 months of hard effort - individually and in partnership - to achieve an effective, practical package.

Will all examiners be part of the new scheme?

No. Only accredited companies will be entitled to use the new certification. They will gain the right to do so by establishing their competence and committing themselves to following all the approved processes. They will be open to independent assessment and to a complaints procedure. The strict standards ensured by the CFTS scheme - and endorsed by the quality mark - will only apply to TEs conducted by accredited companies.

How does a company become accredited?

The application procedure requires each company to supply detailed information about staff who will be involved in the TE process, right down to depot level, and the procedures they will use. It must also demonstrate that it has the necessary equipment, facilities and training programs.

If its application is accepted, it must agree to abide by the strict QAPC; allow inspection of its facilities by CFTS; respect the decisions of arbitration; and use the official documentation.

What does the QAPC cover?

The code sets rigorous standards on all aspects of the TE process, including:

Independence, impartiality and integrity
Organisation and management
Administration and record keeping
Personnel issues, including qualifications and training
Duties of the TEs manager
How to conduct a TE
Quality maintenance procedures for all of the above

The code also includes a complaints procedure.

Why should we adopt the CFTS scheme?

The CFTS partners have worked together closely to set up a national scheme which delivers all of the safety objectives of TE. Importantly, their examinations will cover various additional inspections specific to the safe operation of forklifts. No one else can claim such authority, familiarity with the examination procedure and commitment to its aims, nor the full backing of the relevant industry trade associations.

Accredited forklift engineers will have the in-depth knowledge to identify and categorise defects more clearly than examiners from a broader background. Their training as competent persons includes a demanding course on TE. Correspondingly high levels of training and experience are also required of their managers.

Crucially, companies conducting TEs under the CFTS scheme will have been obliged to sign up to every aspect of the QAPC. There are no half measures.

Only by choosing a CFTS accredited company can you be sure the TE will meet the highest standards. It's what you would expect from BITA and the FLTA, whose members already adhere to very rigorous codes of practice... guaranteeing peace of mind for the customer.

What if we don't choose a CFTS accredited company?

If you look elsewhere for a TE, the advice you receive could be seriously flawed. If you depend on other schemes or providers, you could find yourself the victim of low standards, inconsistencies or superficial examinations. To put this into perspective, if the TE takes much less than an hour you should question its quality. For complex equipment, it should take much longer. Any of these shortcomings could easily put the forklift owner or hirer on the wrong side of the law.

A poorly conducted TE could leave a forklift in a dangerous condition. The economic impacts of a resulting accident could be catastrophic: damage to equipment, goods and premises... delays in productivity... corporate and personal litigation... heavy fines... adverse publicity...

And that's not to mention the terrible cost in human life, health and suffering that may have to be paid if you cut corners when it comes to this vital safety procedure.

Are there any other advantages to using the scheme?

Yes. As an end user, you will gain the endorsement of an authoritative, high-profile safety initiative whose distinctive CFTS TE stamp of approval will soon be instantly recognisable throughout British industry. This mark will help to give immediate credibility to related documentation and will appear on a sticker - similar to a car tax disc - attached to every forklift which passes examination under the new scheme. The disc will show clearly the TE expiry date.
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