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July 30, 2015

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Are you doing enough to ensure worker safety?


MI25D_0272By Amy Alton, Mentor FLT Training 

Britain’s roads are possibly safer for pedestrians today than they have ever been. Thanks to a concerted, collaborative effort between a range of UK bodies, the number of people injured on British roads fell by a massive 42 per cent between the years 2000 and 2010.

Sadly, the materials handling sector has failed to match this achievement. Within the same period of time, the number of serious injuries caused by forklift trucks fell by just 10 per cent and, while this is undoubtedly an improvement, it is simply not enough.

With 1.5 million people working in close proximity to lift trucks, thousands of accidents still occur every year, resulting in hundreds of serious injuries and several deaths. Clearly, the materials handling industry still has much to do.

Best foot forward

Protected by a seatbelt and reinforced overhead guard, lift truck operators are more likely to injure others than themselves. In fact, their colleagues on-foot account for nearly two thirds of all forklift accident victims and are, as such, the obvious candidates for safety training. It is vital that they are able to recognise the dangers associated with forklift operations, understand the relevance to their work and wellbeing and, perhaps most importantly, know how to respond appropriately.

Stuart Taylor, Managing Director of Mentor FLT Training, the UK’s leading provider of nationwide training and associated services for materials handling equipment, said: “While forklifts may be covered as part of an induction or on an ad-hoc basis, it’s clear that there are many sites where workers on-foot don’t receive advice on safely working in the same area as lift trucks and other machinery.

“Even when workers are informed, the repetitive nature of logistics work can make it easy for them to become complacent, and for bad habits to creep in – regardless of their role. Such bad practice can soon spread through a workforce and make dangerous behaviour the norm.”

Developed as a cost-efficient way for organisations of all sizes to ensure their workers are sufficiently forklift savvy, Mentor’s new Safely Working with Lift Trucks course targets the behaviour at the root of bad practice – for operators and non-operators alike.

Adhering to the ethos that real, long-lasting change requires a holistic approach, from the top to the bottom of a company, the hard-hitting training strikes home the importance of all personnel taking responsibility for lift truck safety.

Taylor explains: “There seems to be a common misconception that knowing how to keep yourself and others safe around forklifts is just common sense. But if you’ve never been trained to use a forklift, would you recognise all dangerous practice? Probably not.”

For operators themselves, who should have already received lift truck training, such a course serves to refocus their attention on the serious consequences of bad practice, and remind them of their legal and moral responsibilities.

With great power…

Of course, when it comes to lift truck safety, the buck ultimately stops with managers and supervisors. The 2013 update to L117, the Health and Safety Executive’s definitive guide to forklift operations, suggests that the HSE is keen to emphasise this point.

Furthermore, a 330 per cent rise in the number of directors prosecuted under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) between 2005 and 2011, and a 31 per cent rise in successful convictions really drives the point home that you are accountable for the people under you and will face consequences if you fail them.

Taylor says: “As many as 90 per cent of managers and supervisors we encounter are not aware of their legal responsibilities, nor the consequences of an accident that results in a prosecution – let alone the numerous financial benefits to be gained from running a safe operation.

“More often than not, managers have never even driven a forklift before, or received any kind of formal training. Indeed, research conducted by Mentor and the Fork Lift Truck Association suggested that drivers and their frontline colleagues had a much better understanding of the common hazards than their supervisors.

“A supervisor who has little understanding of the risks involved in materials handling is not in any position to adequately protect his or her employees. L117 emphasises the absolute requirement for those in charge of forklift operations to receive adequate safety training.”

A matter of course

A supervisor should be able to recognise both good and bad practice and have the skills to draw upon to confidently intervene if safety is being compromised or to identify any additional training needs. A company’s safety measures are only as good as those that implement them so, ultimately, it is the supervisor whose performance largely determines whether or not there is a safety culture at work.

To meet this need, Mentor developed IOSH Managing safely forklift operations, the first ever IOSH-accredited safety management course tailored specifically to the needs of managers and supervisors tasked with overseeing forklift truck operations.

The four-day course, open to delegates from any industry sector, fulfils the legal requirements set out in L117. Delivered on site by highly skilled instructors qualified to NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) standards, it has been designed to equip participants with the knowledge needed to supervise with confidence and competence.

Reaping the benefits

As if protecting your workforce wasn’t reason enough, there are also many financial benefits to be gained by creating and maintaining a safe working environment.

Obvious expenses incurred by forklift accidents include compensation, fines and damage to equipment, facilities and stock. But there are other costs to consider. Downtime, disruption, the loss of reputation, and decreased staff confidence and morale will all impact a business’ bottom line. What’s more, responsible forklift use could even improve fuel consumption and reduce vehicle wear-and-tear.

Taylor concludes: “The materials handling industry has done well to reduce the number of forklift accidents in the last decade or so. However, we still have a long way to go. Only with proper training and sustained effort can companies meet their legal requirements, and promote a safe, productive work culture, thereby improving accident figures. It can be done.”

Amy Alton is marketing co-ordinator at Mentor FLT Training 

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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