Peter Harvey MBE is chief executive of the Fork Lift Truck Association.
A number of unrelated sources have pointed me to an increased awareness that gaining an accolade is much easier than sustaining it - just as remaining at the top of the tree as a sporting champion is markedly more challenging than becoming a champion. In a different universe, it's the "difficult second album" syndrome...
That is why the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) has recruited a Quality Manager. It is his task to ensure that members of the FLTA retain and enhance those standards of service, competence and integrity that allowed them to gain membership of the Association in the first place.
Enter Lee Medway, who, as Quality Manager, will routinely visit every member and conduct on-site audits to ensure compliance across more than 100 criteria.
It's vital work for the reputation of the Association - and even more so for the tens of thousands of businesses in the UK that choose to work with an FLTA member.
The audit is designed to ensure that an accredited company is competent to maintain standards similar to your own - avoiding the risk of any weak link in your chain of traceability and accountability.
In return, you benefit from a fair and approved rental contract; comprehensive public and product liability insurance; a raft of environmental policies; equal opportunities procedures and a great deal more.
For example, all FLTA members are continually updated on current legislation - helping ensure you operate within the requirements of the relevant regulatory bodies. That support is not to be underestimated at a time when, in the UK, our regulatory body, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), is increasingly muscular in its dealings with companies that are seen to be in breach of legislation. It now employs a Fee For Intervention to pursue suspect companies and new sentencing guidelines to punish them, including changes to corporate manslaughter guidelines resulting in hugely increased fines - proportionate to the severity of.l the offence and a company's annual turnover. In parallel, there is a greatly increased likelihood of being found guilty - the HSE reports a conviction rate of 95% of cases prosecuted.
Following an audit, every member of the Association receives a certificate and compliance logo to go alongside the Code of Practice that must be displayed prominently in their premises. For them, it is a constant reminder to be vigilant in maintaining the highest standards. For visiting customers, it is clear evidence that this company works to nationally agreed criteria - a clear differentiator from suppliers who are unaligned, sign up to no Code of Practice and are not held to external standards.
It is part of an ongoing drive by our Association to enhance the offering to those who own, operate and work with forklifts. It's why we run a national forklift safety month, an award-winning safety conference and maintain a huge and ever-expanding array of on-line resources - including a Safe User Group and a step-by-step program (Safer Site Essentials), created to help managers of forklift operations ensure greater safety and productivity whatever the nature of their premises.
I appreciate that mine might be considered a somewhat partisan view when I ask "Why wouldn't you choose a supplier that has been audited and is accredited?"
But, in short, don't take lifts from strangers!