Is your truck safe to use?

Accident Investigation

Operator crushed to death by forklift found to have faulty brakes.

  • Vehicle was reversing down a slope and rolled
  • Forensic examiner found brakes had efficiency of 15%
  • Faulty brakes had been identified months before but were not fixed

A forklift operator was reversing when his vehicle hit a curb and rolled, fatally trapping him underneath.

A forensic vehicle examiner said the brakes were “clearly defective and in a dangerous condition” having been contaminated with hydraulic fluid.

Two months prior to the accident, the brakes were identified as being faulty, but work was never carried out. The jury returned a conclusion of accidental death caused by a combination of mechanical failure and operator error.

Keep an eye on faults

As this story shows, it’s vital that operators check trucks on a regular basis and that maintenance is carried out in a timely manner as required. Whether a truck is used continuously or just a few hours a week, the principle behind pre-use checks is the same: the person who is going to operate the truck for the next period of work, or shift, is responsible for making sure that the truck is safe to use before they start.

Any faults must then be reported to the manager. If it is a non-critical fault and the truck is still used, then additional checks need to be put in place. A clearly defined recording system must also be used, to ensure that issues are not forgotten, as in the case of the story above. It is the manager’s responsibility to make sure that faults are noted and fixed, and that any critical faults are rectified before the truck is used again.

What can you do?

The UKMHA provides a comprehensive Daily Checks booklet which includes a detailed guide on how to complete pre-shift assessments. Safe User Group members also get the added bonus of a discount in the UKMHA shop. Get yours here.

Regular Thorough Examinations are also key. These are required by law, however there is some misconception that an inspection under LOLER 1998 (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) is all that’s required.

Please be aware that a simple LOLER inspection does not fulfil your obligations as an employer, as it only checks the lifting equipment, including mast, chain, carriage and forks. For your trucks to be truly compliant, an inspection is also required under PUWER 1998 (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) which checks the vehicle itself, including brakes, tyres and steering.

CFTS — the body behind the UK national standard for the Thorough Examination of lift trucks — provides in-depth inspections that cover requirements under both LOLER 1998 and PUWER 1998, giving you confidence that your truck has been examined in detail, in accordance with the law.

The minimum frequency for Thorough Examinations is every 12 months, but they could be needed more often, for example if a truck operates in arduous conditions, or is used over 40 hours per week.

Be sure to book regular inspections and make a note of the next Thorough Examination date so that your truck’s Report doesn’t expire. You can check what should be covered in a comprehensive Thorough Examination and how often it should be done by clicking here.

You and the law

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) states that work equipment must be properly maintained and inspected at suitable intervals.

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) requires that you make sure the lift truck has been thoroughly examined by a competent person within the previous 12 months (six months for equipment used for lifting people), or sooner if the competent person considers this appropriate. In this context, the competent person would be a qualified engineer or similar.

This legislation is summarised in the Approved Code of Practice and guidance for Rider-Operated Lift Trucks (L113). The guidance also covers the importance of pre-shift checks, which among many things can include:
Doing a functional test on the parking brake, service brakes and steering gear to ensure they are working efficiently.

Completing a visual inspection of hydraulic systems to check for obvious leaks, and making sure hydraulic fluid levels are correct when the forks are in the parked position.

Next steps

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

Fact Sheet 28: Operator Daily checks

Technical Bulletin 05: Thorough Examination of Forklift Trucks

Daily Checks booklet

Further resources — plus previous H&S Newsletters — can be found in the SUG Area of the UKMHA website.

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