Why is proper maintenance of fork trucks so important? To most people, the first reason that comes to mind is an economic one: cutting the cost of downtime. But there is also a very strong safety argument in favour of an active programme of preventative maintenance.
Consider the extreme hypothetical case of an operator who decides to save money by buying an old truck and not bothering to service it. His strategy is simply to have the truck repaired whenever it breaks down. In all probability, the money saved on maintenance will be quickly wiped out by the expense of repairing mechanical damage that could have been avoided by servicing. Then there is the cost of production lost through downtime. Outweighing even those hazards, however, is the high risk that the truck will develop a fault that results in a serious accident.
Even if he is lucky enough to avoid accidents, the employer who uses a poorly maintained truck can end up in trouble with the law. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 make it a legal requirement for employers to maintain work equipment adequately. Failure to maintain fork lift trucks in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations may therefore lead to prosecution.
When it comes to the condition of the brakes, the chains and the forks, for example, the relationship between maintenance and safety is obvious. It would be unwise, though, to assume that neglect of other components and systems cannot lead to accidents. Truck users must always acknowledge the need for preventative maintenance and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Your first line of defence against the neglect that can lead to hazardous faults is the operator’s daily or pre-shift checks. You must enforce these checks. To ensure that they are carried out properly, you will need a supervisor who understands their significance. Daily check forms are vital too. The Fork Lift Truck Association publishes an inexpensive booklet – including ready-made forms – that helps truck users keep documentary evidence of the checking process and gives guidance on what needs to be done. Similar systems can easily be put in place for checks needed at weekly or other intervals.
To carry out the necessary servicing in-house, you need a properly qualified fork lift truck engineer. If you are not entirely sure that your engineer has appropriate qualifications, don’t take the risk. If you contract a fork lift truck service company to maintain your truck, make sure you get what you pay for. Read your contract carefully and hold the company to it. Even if you don’t have a maintenance agreement, you should not allow a hired truck to operate on your premises indefinitely without asking the supplier about maintenance.
Which leads us to our final piece of advice: talk to your service provider. It’s not in that company’s interests for a truck in its care to break down or to be involved in an accident. So go through the contract or agreement carefully together and make sure that each of you understands what is required of the other. And remember to talk again if the use of your truck changes at any time, so maintenance needs can be reassessed if necessary.
For details of the FLTA Daily Checks booklet, or to place an order, visit www.fork-truck.org.uk.
For further information on the FLTA you can also email email@example.com or call 01256 381 441.