Preventative Maintenance

Never take a truck’s condition for granted. A fork lift goes through a lot in its day-to-day work, and the resulting wear can be a constant source of worry – even with the most careful or operations or lightest of workloads.

Sometimes even a little bump here or a small scrape there may be overlooked — after all, it doesn’t look like much —  but even minor faults can have catastrophic effects if not caught in time.

As someone overseeing fork lift operations, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring your trucks are always in proper working order – before your drivers get behind the wheel.

Failing to do so comes at a heavy cost. Maintaining your trucks to a good standard ensures your workers are safe, your operations are productive and comply with the law.

With that in mind, it’s crucial you’re aware of: 

  • What the law says and what that means in practice
  • What can happen if you fail to comply
  • What steps you can take to keep your trucks in tip top condition

Read on as we find out more about why competent management of lifting operations is paramount…

Accident investigation:

Fatality caused by non-maintained fork lift truck

  • 35-year-old father-of-three killed
  • Firm fined £200,000 plus court costs
  • No valid Thorough Examination certificate
  • Truck in poor condition

A Kent recycling company was fined £200,000 after use of an illegal and poorly-maintained fork lift truck led to the death of an employee.

The Canterbury business pleaded guilty before magistrates to breaching health and safety laws. The company was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court and also ordered to pay £11,384 in costs.

The victim was a 35-year-old father of three, whose youngest daughter was only nine months old when the tragedy occurred.

He was helping to lay a new road surface when a fork lift truck, with an extendable arm carrying a steel bucket of rubber, reached its balance point – tipping forward. The bucket hit him on the head, knocking him to the ground. He died from his injuries two days later.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation that followed found that the safe load indicator on the machine was not correctly calibrated and was unusable at the time.

In addition, the fork lift truck did not have a valid Thorough Examination certificate and courts heard how an engineer had been unable to inspect or repair it because of its poor condition.

After the sentencing, the HSE inspector said: “This was a wholly avoidable incident which led to unnecessary loss of life.”

You and the law

As a manger, you should be aware of all relevant fork lift legislation. There are a number of areas specifically related to the maintenance of the fork lift truck itself which you should be familiar:

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

Under HSWA, you, as the employer, have a duty of care to ensure that the equipment your staff use is safe to use. 

PUWER 98

Regulation 5(1) states that every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order, and in good repair.

Thorough Examinations

The Thorough Examination of fork lift trucks is roughly equivalent to the MOT for cars – a mandatory check to ensure your truck’s mechanical parts are in safe working order.

It is not the same as regular maintenance – so you need one whether or not you’ve just had your truck serviced.

The HSE defines it as:

Thorough examination of industrial lift trucks is required under health and safety law: LOLER 1998 which covers lifting equipment and PUWER 1998, which deals with all other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres. Your regular inspections – as part of a preventative maintenance scheme or scheduled service – are not a thorough examination.

Thorough Examination is required by law and must take place at regular intervals dependent on your truck and its application. But it will certainly be at least once a year… often more frequently.

An UKMHA survey revealed that 84% of managers who hire fork lift trucks incorrectly believe the hire company is accountable for ensuring the truck holds a current Report of Thorough Examination.

In fact, the obligation lies with the employer of the fork truck operator.

Fines for using a truck without a valid Thorough Examination Report can be 10 times higher than that of fines for driving a car without a valid MOT.

All of the above legislation is included in the Approved Code of Practice for fork truck operations:Rider-operated lift trucks: Operator training and safe use. (L117). You can download this now for free from the HSE.

Top tips from the field

Prevention is better than the cure. A robust system of pre-shift or daily checks is your first line of defence against truck failure… and it takes just a few minutes at the start of each shift.

This allows your operators to catch any potential faults before they become more serious. Typically, they take between five and ten minutes, so there’s not really a good excuse to skip them. They should be done in accordance with each manufacturer’s instructions and recorded in writing each time.

A Daily Checks booklet, which simplifies recording of pre-shift checks, is available from the UKMHA web shop (ukmha.org.uk/store) alongside paddles which visually indicate trucks with faults.

Importantly, when faults are identified, the truck should not be used until:

  • Any resulting queries or concerns have been reported to a manager or supervisor
  • Advice has been obtained on warning lights showing
  • Any fault affecting safe operations being rectified

On a longer-term basis, ensure that you have a regular maintenance plan set up and remember to schedule Thorough Examinations. However, don’t rely on outside companies to remind you when it’s due –  if your TE certificate expires, you’re the one on the hook for any repercussions.

Next steps

We have host of resources available to advise SUG members on this issue, including:

Further resources – plus all of our previous Health & Safety Newsletters can be found on the SUG Resourses page.

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