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Fork lift truck safety

Updated: Feb 16

Case study

An engineering company has been fined nearly £40,000 after an employee suffered injuries when he was struck by a metal structure as it was being lifted on a forklift truck. The worker sustained serious flesh wounds and a fractured arm in the incident.

The employer was prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found the company had failed to ensure that the lifting operation was suitably planned, supervised or carried out safely.

The court heard that the worker and a colleague were attempting to manoeuvre the structure out of the premises using a fork lift truck. Whilst trying to raise the structure from its supporting trestles, it twisted and swung towards the worker, entering the cab of the fork lift truck and striking him.

The company had not carried out a risk assessment and no formal training had been provided for the employees.

The employer pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,670.

Laws and regulations

The use of lift trucks in the workplace can be particularly hazardous; figures show that about a quarter of all workplace transport accidents involve them. Analysis of the causes of such accidents show that they are often due to poor supervision and a lack of training. Deaths and injuries caused in these accidents can ruin both lives and businesses; even if an incident does not lead to an employee being injured, costly damage can still be caused to equipment, property and goods.

The regulations listed below cover a wide range of different types of lift trucks, including

  • industrial counterbalanced trucks,

  • industrial reach trucks,

  • rough terrain counterbalanced trucks,

  • variable reach trucks (telehandlers),

  • side-loading trucks,

  • container-handling trucks,

  • articulated trucks,

  • pedestrian-operated trucks (pallet stackers),

  • order-picking trucks,

  • very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks and -straddle trucks.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Under these regulations, employers have to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment which means considering hazards and risks connected with a particular operation, process or piece of equipment.

A hazard is anything that may cause harm – in the case of lift trucks, striking pedestrians, other vehicles and structures; loss of stability; falling loads; falling from the carrier if someone is being lifted; or being crushed.

A risk is the chance that a person could be harmed by these hazards, together with an indication of the seriousness of that harm.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

All work equipment is covered by these regulations, and they require that:

  • work equipment is suitable for the purpose for which it is to be used;

  • maintenance and inspection are carried out at suitable intervals;

  • the use and maintenance of the equipment is restricted to people given the task of using and/or maintaining it;

  • users, supervisors and managers are adequately and suitably trained.

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)

These regulations deal with the very specific hazards and risks associated with lifting equipment and lifting operations.

When it is anticipated that a lifting operation will involve a fork lift truck, it should be properly planned by a competent person, who in many cases is the operator, since they are most likely to have the knowledge and expertise to do so.

If the task in question is unusual or complex, a specific risk assessment and planning are likely to be needed.

The lifting operations should also have adequate supervision.

The regulations also require that lift trucks need to be thoroughly examined by a competent person within the previous 12 months (six months for equipment used for lifting people)

If a truck is assembled on site, it needs to be thoroughly examined before use.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

The use of the lift truck in the workplace is governed by these regulations, which require:

  • traffic routes to be arranged so that pedestrians and vehicles can move safely from place to place;

  • lighting that is bright enough to enable people to work and move around safely;

  • floors and traffic routes to be constructed in a way that does not expose employees using them to health and safety risks;

  • doors or gates to swing both ways if possible; where a door is conventionally hinged and on a traffic route, it needs to have a transparent viewing panel so that the space on each side can be seen when it is shut.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

Hazards do not only arise from the operation of the lift truck itself but from substances that are produced by it or which are used in its maintenance; for example, exhaust fumes from the truck’s engines, fuel oils and battery acid.

The regulations mean that employers must carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks in the proposed work involving exposure to hazardous substances and, where necessary, introduce appropriate control measures.

All employees should be made aware of the substances to which they may be exposed and the suitable first-aid facilities

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