The Dangers Of Complacency

Accident Investigation

A Liverpool builders’ merchants has been fined£94,500 for not maintaining on-site health and safety standards following the death of a lift truck operator.

  • Lorry collided with forklift
  • Forklift operator was trapped under the truck and later died of his injuries
  • Liverpool City Council’s Environmental Health Officers found serious H&S failings
  • Operators routinely did not wear seatbelts

The investigating officers also found there were risks posed by a lack of proper management of delivery vehicles and the unsafe movement and poor separation of vehicles and pedestrians at the site.

In court, District Judge Hatton said: “The incident was avoidable and shouldn’t have happened. There was a basic failure to manage risk as vehicles interacted with pedestrians and there was a casualness about vehicles in the yard. I must impose a fine so casualness doesn’t creep in through the backdoor.”

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Cllr Abdul Qadir, said: “Quite simply, this should never have happened. Nobody should ever go to work and not go home and it is the responsibility of all businesses to ensure they are doing everything in their power to ensure health and safety regulations are adhered to at all times.”

Regularly review your site and practices

As we saw with the accident above, complacency often causes accidents. It is all too easy to do the same thing day in day out and assume that processes are working just fine. But just because you have always done something a certain way does not mean it’s the right way. After all, forklifts are dangerous pieces of equipment, and things can go wrong quickly.

When did you last assess your transport routes and pedestrian segregation? Have you walked the floor to see if operators are using seatbelts?

If the site layout has changed at all, or you have new staff that don’t know the site well, then it could be time to review your risk assessments to highlight any possible new hazards.

For example, great lessons can be learned from Kellogg’s – winner of the 2019 Safe Site Award. The company’s Manchester plant is the largest cereal factory in Europe, but after a few near misses, Kellogg’s decided to run a campaign dedicated to improving pedestrian and operator safety.

The plant layout was improved in order to separate pedestrians and equipment where possible. In addition to £70k+ of barriers, gates, mirrors, and improved signage, new walkways were implemented to avoid moving equipment areas, and FLTs were banned from packing areas.

Since pedestrian segregation is not always possible, lift trucks were fitted with blue warning lights to improve visibility, and restricted to 5mph in the plant. 

What you can do

Even when risk assessments have been completed and safe systems of work have been put into place, a key step is ensuring that everyone on site engages with health and safety. Be they operators, visiting delivery drivers or pedestrians, make them aware that they are not only responsible for their own safety, but also that of their colleagues.

The UKMHA website has a number of resources to help involve your teams.

To start, check out The Five Crucial Conversations that Drive FLT Safety.  It identifies the reasons staff might not speak up about the practices they see (either because they are busy, afraid of the consequences, or they have just accepted unsafe practice happens) and offers insight on how to create a culture of safety, not a culture of silence.

The UKMHA offers a range of “get home safe” posters and resources available to print and display at your site to remind staff of their responsibilities. Find them here or go to the Safe User Group > Information and Resources > Safety Posters.

UKMHA is also running its Safety Convention on 14th June 2022 – to coincide with National Forklift Safety Day. It is a great way to hear first-hand accounts from key industry stakeholders and get top tips on how to improve safety on your site. Find more and book tickets here.

You and the law

Employers are obligated to keep all those on site safe, including visiting personnel. This is outlined under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 which states:

There are a number of Health and Safety legal statures that your business is obligated to meet. A key document for understanding your responsibilities is L117 – Rider-operated lift trucks: Operator training and safe use – Approved Code of Practice and guidance.

All the advice contained within it relates to the seven main pieces of UK legislation that govern the safe use of fork lift trucks:

  1. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act)
  2. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  3. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
  4. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
  5. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
  6. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
  7. Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM)

To find out more and download L117, click here.

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