RUBB

It seems curious that the most accident-prone equipment in warehouses is the forklift yet there remains confusion over forklift training requirements and myths like drivers must hold a licence to be renewed by refresher training every three years. To add to the parlous alarm there is more confusion over thorough  forklift examinations in terms of what must be inspected. This arises because the inspection procedure for Through Examinations is open to interpretation. This leaves employers of forklift drivers unwittingly exposed to prosecution because a truck passed by one inspector as safe could be failed by another inspector looking beyond the LOLER 98 legislation to include PUWER 98. A Thorough Examination is a legal requirement, not a guideline, and in certain applications may be required every three months.

Warehouse safety improvements have been commendable recently, resulting in a 69% fall in accidents, but the situation is far from acceptable. Forklift trucks injure as many people at work as vans, cars and HGVs combined, with one person seriously injured or hospitalised every day through an accident. One in 12 UK employees regularly work with or alongside forklift trucks but more than half of them have not received the minimum training recommended for their job. This suggests that the two thirds of accident victims of all forklift-related accidents who were not driving trucks at the time are being ignored over safety training. Trainers believe that budgets cuts, staff shortages and a lack of awareness are behind this worrisome shortfall.

Many may ask if proper training can be afforded in the current, stringent, business climate. But the costs of skimping training can be far greater, quite apart from law-breaking issues. Hefty fines are not covered by insurance and how does one put a price on damaged reputations and undermined warehouse personnel, not to mention the lasting grief of families losing a breadwinner. But the lost benefits of adequate training are also compelling.

Jonathan Handley, md of Bendi Driver Training, explains why. He argues that there exists a mentality in some quarters that the statutory training that needs to take place must be completed as soon as possible to enable operators to get on with their jobs. This misguided opinion is preventing companies from making huge wins, particularly in terms of job efficiency, damage to racking, trucks and buildings and driving up the quality and loyalty of company employees.

To be fully on side with good forklift training, the trainers themselves need to be properly assessed. LOLER and PUWER 98 law requires that adequate training must be given to managers and supervisors yet this type of training has a very patchy delivery across UK warehousing, says Jonathan Handley. Problems can arise, for example, when asking drivers to change from one type of forklift, like reach or counterbalance, to articulated trucks. No matter how experienced a cb forklift driver may be, that person must be retrained by competent instructors, as required by code of practice ACOP (L117) issued by HSE. Although not law, if ACOP has not been followed then an employer who had failed to offer such training would be in a weak position in any legal or HSE proceedings.

In retrospect it is, perhaps, a pity that no law was framed exclusively for forklifts. LOLER and PUWER 98, which cover many kinds of diverse equipment, makes life more daunting for those responsible for safe forklift work practices. However, there is help at hand. As regards Thorough Examinations, readers could visit: www.thoroughexamination.org. There is also the comprehensive publication, HSG76, available from the Health and Safety Executive.

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