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.
Contrary to popular belief, should a forklift accident occur, it is not the person on the truck who is most at risk.
Pedestrians in the vicinity have little protection against injury, especially if they don’t understand how to recognise potential risks and keep themselves (and others) safe.
Pedestrians can include colleagues working on foot, site visitors, delivery drivers, staff members from other areas of the company and even forklift drivers themselves, once they have dismounted from their trucks.
Anyone who may find themselves near to moving materials handling equipment (MHE) is at risk.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of forklift operators (and their managers/employers) to ensure forklifts are used safely on site and operator training, safe systems of work and regular monitoring will undoubtedly help to create safer operations.
But basic awareness training can also significantly reduce risk for this vulnerable group. So what steps can pedestrians take?
- Use pedestrian walkways/zones: Inadequate segregation between trucks and pedestrians poses a huge risk to safety. Forklifts and people on foot should be separated, wherever possible, ideally by physical segregation using barriers, designated zones and separate traffic routes to keep them apart. Walkways should always be used where available.
- Adhere to safe systems of work: Where total separation is not feasible and staff are required to perform tasks in a shared area, there should 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. These should be communicated to all who may be affected and must be followed day in, day out.
- Keep a safe distance from MHE: This is a fundamental principle which everyone should follow throughout their time on site to reduce risk, and should be part of a SSOW. Sadly, many injuries occur when pedestrians find themselves too close to forklift trucks when they do not need to be there in the first place. When deciding on a safe distance, consider the specific nature of the operation, e.g. if a forklift is unloading from height, leave more distance as, in the event of a tip over, the area covered by the falling mast and load will be larger.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE): Pedestrians must wear any PPE issued to them by their employer for their safety, such as high vis jackets and safety boots. Not only is this good practice, it is also a legal requirement upon the employee.
- Follow signage: Take note of any posters and signs positioned around site, and follow the safety measures, guidance and travel routes.
- Report bad practice: Staff must be mindful not only of their own safety, but also that of their peers, and while managers have an obligation to monitor behaviour, there may be times when it is necessary for a staff member to flag the actions of others. Unsafe forklift operation or disregard for safe travel routes are examples of bad practice that should be reported to a supervisor for the safety of everyone on site.
Training for all
Forklift awareness training for operators and pedestrians alike allows everyone to understand the importance of following safety measures, and the potential consequences if they don’t. These types of courses emphasise to all parties the need to remain alert to their surroundings and maintain safe distances between MHE and pedestrians at all times. By increasing forklift safety awareness across the board, you can ensure that everyone is equipped to contribute to a safer site.