Unlike an MOT, a Thorough Examination is open to some interpretation – which could cause major problems for employers…

As the manager or director of a company that uses fork lift trucks you are probably aware of the need for Thorough Examination – brought into even sharper focus in recent times by the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007…

However, all available research indicates that there is still a great deal of confusion among employers regarding exactly what must be inspected.  Most know it includes the forks and the lift mechanism (it is, after all, a fork lift truck!), but what about the brakes and the steering?

Surprisingly, perhaps, the answer depends on which version of Thorough Examination you sign up to… as one business owner learned the hard way.

Partial inspection places drivers’ lives at risk

In a recent case, a truck was given a clean bill of health by an inspector – despite the presence of serious structural damage which rendered it unsafe and unlawful.

Just weeks later, the truck’s poor state of repair was discovered during a routine service by an experienced fork lift truck engineer, who, fortunately for the customer, happened to be qualified as a Competent Person for the Thorough Examination of fork lift trucks under a scheme developed by the industry’s own experts, Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS).

The watchful engineer quickly identified visible damage to the overhead guard which could have compromised protection against falling objects, such as laden pallets displaced at height. As a result of further investigation, he also identified hitherto unnoticed cracks to both the chassis and the carriage. Moreover the service engineer also identified the cause of the damage: apparently it was being used as an anchor point for towing a 7.5 tonne lorry!

“For the stress to have caused this damage to the guard it is quite likely that other structural damage will have been done to the fork lift truck, some of which may put the operator at even greater risk,” explains CFTS technical manager Chas Day.

“Yet the owner of the truck was completely unaware of any problems. Having been told that his truck had passed its Thorough Examination he would, quite naturally, have expected it to be operating safely and legally. However, the extent of damage to this particular truck meant it was a potential killer – and almost certainly unlawful.

“The reason this went unnoticed is that under some inspections – including the original one undertaken on this particular truck – only those items covered under LOLER 98 legislation such as mast, chains and forks are checked.  In the view of CFTS and most experienced fork truck specialists that really is literally doing just half the job.

“How can anyone claim to have properly inspected a truck for safety when those items that come under PUWER 98 – such as overhead guards… steering… even brakes are simply ignored?

“In my view that leaves unsuspecting managers and directors potentially exposed to prosecution should anything go wrong.”

CFTS clears up confusion

The problem stems from a situation in which, unlike an automotive MOT, the inspection procedure for Thorough Examinations is open to a fair degree of interpretation. As a result, a provider is able to decide what should and shouldn’t be included.

It was to overcome this clearly untenable situation that the two leading organisations in the fork lift truck industry – the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), with the support of the HSE – joined forces to create a single, national procedure available to truck users, wherever their industry or location.

The task facing CFTS was to establish a “best practice” process that offers the appropriate level of inspection to the equipment… and the greatest level of protection to those responsible for the safety of the fork lift truck operator (and the many more co-workers and pedestrians who come into contact with what is a very dangerous piece of equipment.)

The resulting delivery body, Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), established a comprehensive procedure and strict code of practice, recruited expert staff, provided management training and put in place the mechanism to monitor standards. Companies accredited to the scheme – and there are more than 300 of them covering the length and breadth of the UK – can be identified via the distinctive “kite” certification mark.

How thorough are your Thorough Examinations?

Find out by visiting www.thoroughexamination.org today to check whether your Thorough Examination provider meets CFTS standards.