Safety First

Todd Brennan: How 'optional' are 'extras' when it comes to risk control?

Wednesday, 11 August 2004 ( #170 )
When purchasing a motor vehicle, the addition of accessories, or "optional extras", is an emotional decision designed to limit the entry price to an acceptable level by avoiding 'sticker shock'.
But in the case of the purchase of load-shifting equipment such as forklifts, can they truly be called "optional extras"?
Certainly there is no doubt that most forklifts on the Australian market meet the requirements of the necessary standards such as Australian Standard AS2359. But the question begs: Is this really good enough to meet the regulatory requirements?
Without proper assessment, this question cannot be answered with any conviction.
We live in a society that now operates under "performance-based" OH&S legislation.
Compliance with standards is only the minimum requirement and much more detailed analysis is required to establish what other equipment will be required for an individual application.
Some states set some prescriptive requirements, but in general, it's up to the purchaser and the supplier to establish the risk control measures required for each of these applications.
Speed limiters, pedestrian proximity devices, access control devices, lift height limiters and stability control systems are just a few of the "options" among a vast array of choices.
So, if these items can effectively guarantee enhanced safety, why are they not standard equipment?
In some cases, they have been made standard equipment by the manufacturer and, in other cases, the control measure(s) may not be suitable for every application.
Additionally, as with many industries, the forklift market has always been very price-competitive and a small difference in price can add up to big dollars, especially when it comes to substantial fleet rental deals.
Therefore, in some - not all - instances, there has been some reluctance among the parties to discuss the question of extras.
This situation has not gone unnoticed by the authorities and manufacturers, especially as evidence shows forklift accidents and fatalities predominantly involve pedestrians and lateral forklift roll-over.
As a result of this, the Australian Industrial Truck Association (AITA) recently released a Code of Conduct, agreed upon by its members.
One of the code's prime focuses is to ensure that all available safety options are offered to the purchaser, including those that increase forklift stability - ie, dual-wheel, wide-axle, electronic stability control, or simply a bigger truck to do the job.
There is also an array of state-of-the-art systems available from manufacturers or after-market suppliers.
The AITA is also developing a technical document which is expected to discuss accessories, maintenance and other information that members can in turn discuss with clients.
So to restate the point, can these accessories really be called "optional extras"?
A decision can only be made after in-depth risk assessment, which will mean that both suppliers and purchasers will need to act much more cooperatively to ensure the situation is fully investigated and evaluated.
It is also likely that as industry safety awareness increases, certain components will become standard equipment - if only by proxy.

Prepared by Todd Brennan of Forkpro Australia. For more information, email Todd.
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