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Control of workplace transport risk

There are few industrial vehicles that can rival the versatility of forklifts.

They exist in thousands of configurations across countless applications, globally – from recycling plants to post office depots, carpet shops to military bases. They are an integral part of global logistics.

However, with such a huge range of trucks and tasks, safety requirements can never be as simple as one-size-fits-all; safety must not only be tailored to a site’s individual requirements, but reviewed regularly to ensure procedures are still relevant and adhered to.

As any competent FLT manager will know, control of workplace transport risk is no simple task. It requires a detailed knowledge of both your site, your application, and your legal obligations. Crucially, if you are the one overseeing or directing operations, you’re accountable if things do go wrong.

As we will see in this H&S Newsletter, failure to comply with regulations can be costly – both to your workforce, and your bottom line.

Accident investigation

Company fined £520,000 after FLT accident

  • Employee struck by forklift
  • Serious brain injury required induced coma
  • Inadequate control of workplace transport risk

A company in Wales, manufacturing metal pressings and sub-assemblies for the automotive industry, has been fined £520,000 after one of its workers was struck by a forklift truck and suffered a serious brain injury. The victim was so badly injured that he had to be put into an induced coma.

Upon investigation, the HSE discovered that there was inadequate control of workplace transport risks. Safety shortcomings included a lack of segregation between vehicles and pedestrians, a lack of safe pedestrian crossings, and insufficient signage highlighting hazards.

The company entered a guilty plea for breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. In addition to the fine of more than half a million pounds, they were ordered to pay costs of £8,014.

You and the law

There are several pertinent pieces of legislation regarding this issue, including the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations advise that:

  • Traffic routes be organised to enable pedestrians and vehicles to be separated, wherever possible. Where not possible, lines should be drawn to clearly indicate separate routes.
  • Sufficient lighting as to allow people to work and move around safely
  • Floors and traffic routes be constructed in ways suited to the purpose for which they will be used, and not exposing users to health and safety risks
  • Appropriate crossing points be provided and used where pedestrian and vehicle routes meet. Consider bridges or subways at crossing points with particularly high traffic.
  • Where pedestrian and vehicle routes meet, there should be adequate visibility and open space. Where an enclosed pedestrian route (or a doorway or staircase) joins a vehicle route, there should be an open space of at least 1 m from which pedestrians can see along the vehicle route in both directions. Where such a space cannot be achieved, barriers or rails should be provided to prevent pedestrians walking directly onto the vehicle route.
  • Traffic routes used by vehicles and pedestrians should feature suitable signage and road markings to indicate potential hazards 16.36

The Health & Safety at Work Act (1974)

This legislation, among others, outlines your responsibility for the health and safety of your employees, contractors and visitors. Importantly, this applies to all workplaces. Importantly, it also states that every employee has a responsibility for his/her own health and safety while at work.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations

This spells out your responsibility to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments. In short, this is a careful examination of what in your work could cause harm to people, so you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions (or need to do more.) 

All of these pieces of legislation are included in the Approved Code of Practice for fork truck operations Rider-operated lift trucks: Operator training and safe use. (L117). Download this now, for free, from the HSE.

Top tips from the field

Ensuring site safety can seem like a daunting task, for even the most experienced managers. Not only must you understand the law, but also how it applies to your specific site, and what improvements you must make. Furthermore, your ability to implement changes may be affected by factors such as cost and the physical limitations of your site.

Safe Site Pro is a free resource, providing SUG members with tools and step-by-step instructions to audit and improve site safety. Its structured approach eases the weight of what could otherwise feel like an overwhelming task.

Sites come in a range of shapes and sizes and what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. However, looking at what other organisations are doing can be an excellent source of inspiration. Take a look at what other companies have done to improve safety on their sites.

Next steps

There are a host of resources available to advise Safe User Group members on this issue, including:

  • Further tools and information — plus previous H&S Newsletters — can be found in the SUG Area of the UKMHA website.
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