Accident in the news
A carpentry and joinery company in Coventry has been fined £200,000 after a man working unsecured on the forks of a forklift truck fell several metres and was injured.
- Employee was working from an unsecured stillage
- The stillage tipped and the employee fell 3.5 metres to the ground
- He suffered a broken leg and other injuries
An investigation by the HSE found the company failed to identify that using a stillage to lift someone on a forklift truck was unsafe. The company had used this method before, and there was a lack of training for employees on the dangers of working at height without the proper equipment. There were also no systems of work or risk assessments in place.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1974. Along with a £200,000, the company was ordered to pay costs of £6,477.93.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rebecca Whiley said: “The employee’s injuries were very serious, and he could have easily been killed.
“This serious incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.
“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
Using working platforms
Primarily, forklift trucks are intended for lifting materials and not people. However, they can be used with working platforms to allow people to work at height in exceptional circumstances only. It is generally accepted that, in conjunction with a forklift truck, an integrated working platform provides a higher level of safety than a non-integrated type.
Nevertheless, a non-integrated working platform may be used when it provides a safer means of access than, for example, improvised stairs or platforms or a ladder that would otherwise be used and it is impracticable to use an integrated working platform.
Generally, non-integrated working platforms do not provide as high a level of safety as purpose-built access equipment. Consequently, forklift trucks fitted with non-integrated working platforms are not suitable for order picking, routine maintenance or the transfer of goods or people from one level to another.
‘Purpose-built access equipment’ means equipment that, by design, is intended to be used by people to allow them to work at height.
‘Non-integrated working platforms’ are attachments for use in conjunction with forklift trucks to elevate people so they can work at height, but they have no controls in the platform i.e., all truck and working platform movements are controlled from the operator compartment by the forklift truck operator.
‘Integrated working platforms’ are attachments with controls that are linked to and isolate the forklift truck controls, so that only someone in the platform can control the platform lift height and truck movements
Detailed guidance is provided in Factsheet 18. Read it here.
Establish Clear Communication
There must be adequate communication between the forklift truck operator and people on the working platform, especially when raising and lowering. Handheld communication devices or a system of signals should be used where communication is difficult. If a working platform is lifted to a height greater than 4 metres above the forklift truck operator or the working platform is used in a noisy environment, then it is likely that communication aids will be required. Extra consideration should be given to using a permissioning control platform, integrated working platform or a MEWP in these circumstances.
Precautions you must take if a manned platform is to be fitted to a forklift truck
- It must be secured to the forks or carriage so that it cannot come off.
- The platform must meet the construction and inspection requirements set out by the HSE.
- There must be a safe method of use agreed before starting the work.
- Only authorised persons operate and are lifted in the manned platform.
- The operator must not leave the forklift truck whilst the occupants are in the cage.
- Only the lift and lower lever shall be used.
- No other hydraulic levers should be used.
- The forklift truck must be on level ground.
- The operation must be for occasional non-scheduled use.
- A thorough risk assessment of the lift must be in place.
- The forklift truck must be secured by use of the handbrake and neutral applied.
- The Thorough Examination frequency of the forklift truck must be at least 6-monthly.
- Persons are not to be transported within the cage.
- A method of communication is agreed between the operator and person(s) lifted prior to the work commencing.
Tilting mechanism, side shift and variable geometry attachments and the following functions must not be capable of movement while the working platform is elevated:
- Tilt or side shift.
- Chassis or mast levelling.
- Reach (reach trucks).
You and the law
Legislation in the form of Regulation 7(2)(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 places a duty on employers to select the most suitable work equipment for the task to be carried out regardless of the duration of the task.
Law in the form of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) places duties on people and companies (duty holders) who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment, including forklift trucks. LOLER requires that all lifting equipment be fit for purpose, appropriate for the task, suitably marked and in many cases, subject to statutory periodic Thorough Examination.
In most cases lifting equipment is work equipment, so the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) will also apply. Which includes the inspection and maintenance of safety related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres.