Time for change?

Todd Brennan -
Safety First
- 26 Apr 2007 ( #307 )
3 min read
Todd Brennan is the founder and owner of Forkpro Australia. A former chairman of the Australian Industrial Truck Engineering Committee, Brennan aims to "fill the forklift safety gap" with Forkpro's forklift training courses. Together with his team, he has assisted tertiary institutions, including the Melbourne-based Monash University Accident Research Centre's forklift safety project.
It's a beautiful Saturday autumn afternoon and I have a few days off to relax. I am spending time on the New South Wales North Coast. The family and I are trying out a new unit complex. Life seems good right now so, while the kids are occupied, I read the newspaper. By page three, this idyllic lifestyle is disrupted by a small piece. "Worker killed in forklift accident" announces the headline. I think to myself, not again, and reflect that some family is now dealing with the reality that they will never again experience a peaceful Saturday afternoon like this.

To make matters worse, I returned to work the following Monday and immediately inquired as to the circumstances, only to be told it was just one of two fatalities last week.

One was a lateral tip-over and the other pedestrian related. The two usual culprits.

I rack my brain as to why these two scenarios continue to pop up. Surely by now all users are aware of the importance of wearing seat belts and pedestrian separation - or are they? Is it operators or management? Is it forklift design or workplace design? Is it the number of forklifts in use or the number of workers? Is it behavioural or procedural? Obviously there is no simple answer or surely it would have been treated by now.

The control measures to eliminate these problems are all there now. What is not there, in many cases, is the right attitude. Behavioural change is the key to preventing further tragedies and developing a higher knowledge base for managers and supervisors. -When was the last time you saw a course on managing and controlling mobile plant equipment? I know priority often goes to the matters that are drawn to our attention, that is, the squeaky wheels.

I had a boss once whose philosophy was that he would deal with what was in his in tray based on who asked about its progress first. If it was still in his in tray in six weeks without an inquiry, he sent it straight to the 'round filing cabinet' or the 'Bermuda rectangle'. Unfortunately, in these days of performance-based legislation, the first time you may realise an issue is a priority is after it is too late.

Forklift operators' training is often targeted as the key to preventing accidents and it is, in combination with effective control measures and supervision. As forklift numbers proliferate, that often counters the steps achieved through developing good control measures. Ultimately, it becomes a numbers game as workplaces become more crowded. Training and procedures, in isolation, are considered low-level control measures. However, they are a critical link in the chain.

Supervisory attitudes and knowledge must change on mobile plant equipment operation, and specifically forklifts. Shared work areas, not enforcing seat belt wearing, speed and driving practices require higher levels of control. In a perfect world there would be no risk but we seriously need to look at who has the most influence on workplace behaviour. Are you that person?
Also Read:
The role of independent forklift distributors
Bill Pfleger
3 minute read
The role of independent forklift distributors Safety First - 10 May 2007 (#309) As the need to keep downtime to a minimum has emerged as a key driver in the forklift fleet selection process, Europe's leading forklift manufacturers have sought to differentiate their product offering by the quality of the after-sales care they provide. ByBill Pfleger.
FLTA offers financial incentive to promote safety
1 minute read
FLTA offers financial incentive to promote safety Safety First - 12 Apr 2007 (#305) The Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) is offering discount vouchers to help forklift owners and operators make their work environments safer.
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