Tim Waples is chief executive of the Fork Lift Truck Association.
The events of 2020 have forced many businesses to adapt their way of working, some in quite major ways, and often in a short space of time. But different companies face different challenges and each has had to find its own way to adapt to an ever-changing situation.
As more reopen their doors each day and return to work, it's a good time to take stock of the whole way of working. Not only is it imperative to keep staff safe, but the business has to remain as productive as ever in the face of restrictions.
Think of it like this: before COVID-19, are you absolutely sure that you were working in the very best way that you could?
Issues that were a problem before may still remain a problem now. So why not address them as well?
Take a step back
Safety remains a major issue
This may be an ideal point for you to stop and take a thorough, objective look at your site layout. If you're looking at implementing changes to encourage distancing and other COVID-related safety measures, it may be that there's more you can do to improve beyond that.
Is everything on your site still fit for purpose? Are things in the best place for them or do staff have to take needless diversions or extra trips? Are the routes taken by forklifts the most efficient they can be, and, importantly, are they effectively separated from pedestrians?
I've written many times on the topic of pedestrian-forklift segregation and I will again in future. It's one of the foundations of better forklift safety and should absolutely be high on the agenda when drawing up site changes.
The reduction of risk to your staff is still the main reason to improve site safety. Too many lives are irreparably affected each week due to preventable forklift incidents and it's an ongoing part of the FLTA's mission to help bring these numbers down. But improving safety brings with it further benefits.
A safer site is a more productive site. The less chance of an accident or incident, the less downtime faced and the fewer costs incurred. As businesses strive to remain profitable and effective in the face of the pandemic, a move towards a more comprehensive safety strategy could prove to be doubly beneficial.
Keep everything in check
You may want to review your trucks' paperwork to ensure everything has an up-to-date report of Thorough Examination. In the early weeks of the pandemic, many businesses were having to run longer shifts, pushing their handling equipment harder than usual in an amazing effort to keep the supply chain going. Your examination schedule may well have been based on your regular working patterns, and if equipment has seen a notable increase in use, then it could be worth bringing your next inspection slightly forward or seeking advice.
The team at CFTS who set the industry standard for Thorough Examination will be happy to field any questions you may have, or you can speak to your local CFTS-accredited member for guidance.
If you're just going back to work or are reopening in stages, then your equipment may have sat idle for an extended period of time. Before using it again, make sure to give it a complete check to make sure nothing has seized up, there are no leaks, all the fluid levels are high enough, and tyres, steering, brakes etc. are in good working condition. If you have any concerns at all, then don't use the equipment before having an engineer inspect it. An earlier restart is not worth risking the safety of your staff.
Review the safety features your equipment currently has. Speak to your supplier about the various accessories and systems that may be effective at your site. Even something as simple as an extra warning light could make the difference and all these little changes add up to protect your workforce that much better.
Safety is a journey, not a destination
We at the FLTA are always looking for ways to promote better safety practices, which is why this time of year we would normally be looking towards our annual National Forklift Safety Convention. The Convention brings together delegates from around the country to hear case studies, panels and guest speakers sharing thoughts and advice on effective safety strategies and key issues.
However, due to the current restrictions on holding live events, we have sadly had to postpone the Convention this year. In its place, this October, the Fork Lift Truck Association is launching a new campaign - FLTA Safety Drive. Initially spanning six weeks, we will be highlighting a different safety topic each week and sharing a number of tips, advice and supporting materials. We'll be posting more in the coming weeks on our site and our social media channels, but you can also sign up to our mailing list to receive Safety Drive updates.
In the meantime, our site already hosts a wealth of resources aimed at supporting you on your safety journey. After all, the best time to make improvements is always right now.