Every year, over 8,000 accidents and 10 deaths involving forklifts are reported to the Health and Safety Executive.
Aside from the human trauma, firms pay a heavy penalty as Peugeot discovered recently when it was fined £15,000 after two people were hurt in a forklift accident. With these statistics in mind it was no surprise when, in 1998, the HSE tightened truck safety regulations.
Under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), it is compulsory for forklifts to undergo an annual inspection similar to the MOT for cars and lorries. But how many companies understand the full implications of these measures and how many users of such equipment can be sure that they are complying with the Approved Code of Practice – and thus operating within the law?
In essence, the regulations require all lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined at least every 12 months or after being involved in an accident or modified in any way.
As one of the world’s largest suppliers of handling solutions, Jungheinrich has taken the subject of safety extremely seriously, creating an independent Fork Truck Inspection (FTI) service centre specifically to meet the LOLER requirements. Working separately from the company’s standard service organisation, it provides all forklift users with the impartial advice, equipment inspections and assistance they will need to work within the LOLER framework. With qualified inspectors and technical support, the centre will help companies to ensure that their handling equipment meets all safety requirements.
After an examination as laid down in the LOLER Approved Code of Practice and Guidance, inspectors must complete a detailed report which must then be passed on to the customer highlighting any defects that are, or could become, a danger. Serious defects must also be reported immediately to the HSE. If inspectors believe the defect may put the operator or other personnel at risk he will recommend that the machine be withdrawn from service.
If an accident due to an unnoticed fault results in personal injury the company bears full liability. This could mean that companies relying on the minimum number of required inspections are laying themselves open to the risk of compensation claims or even prosecution.
Every aspect of the truck’s operation that could impact on safety is inspected under the new regulations. Apart from lifting equipment such as forks and chains, other aspects of the truck to be examined include steering, brakes, chassis, operating levers, traction systems and so forth.
In what many see as an unusual move, the Freight Transport Association has launched a Lift Truck Audit scheme designed to complement and augment inspections that should already be carried out by insurance companies. This includes visual, operational and mechanical checks of every lift truck and its associated equipment.’Independent auditing of forklift fleets is a critical development for the warehouse and logistics sectors and I am sure they will become the norm for the industry,’ says John Lennox, the FTA’s head of Vehicle Inspection Development.
The FTA has already saved some firms from potentially embarrassing situations. Peter Mann, distribution transport operations manager for the Dixons Group, says: ‘In the past 12 months the FTA’s lift truck auditing service has highlighted issues that would otherwise have gone unnoticed until the next annual inspection. This has undoubtedly saved us unexpected costs in downtime and assured us that our fleets are safe.’
Not to be outdone, forklift specialist Barlow has joined forces with a leading third-party independent inspection organisation to develop its own inspection package for customers. The company says that its comprehensive service, offered to users of any make or type of lift truck, will include visual inspections of forks, load chains and chain anchorages, mast assembly, fork carriage, tilt and hoist rams, hydraulic systems, steering assembly, axles, suspension, chassis members and tyres.
The merits of the forklift MOT scheme are easy to understand. What is a little less clear is whether companies that defy the regulations will be caught. Does the HSE have the manpower to seek out ‘offenders’? Only time – or more worryingly a serious accident – will tell.