January 30, 2017

Driving home safety through safe workplace transport policy

2016 ended badly for one Staffordshire-based logistics company after they received heavy fines following two serious employee injuries in just two days in a story that should drive home the importance of safe workplace transport.

Oxford Crown Court heard how on a 39-year-old male employee sustained crush injuries to his left foot when he was hit by a forklift truck (FLT), and how the following day a 55-year-old operations manager sustained severe injuries whilst walking along a marked pedestrian walkway when a large metal box became unstable and fell from the forks of a truck, striking and pinning him underneath.

The incident left him with internal bleeding, a fractured pelvis and punctured lungs.

During their investigation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that FLT operators and their supervisors in the business were not properly trained, and that the risk assessments in place were poor.

Segregation of pedestrians and vehicles was also deemed to be poorly marked.

The Company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, were fined £265,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £14,943.30.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Kelly Nichols said:

It is vital that drivers are competent and have received appropriate information, instruction and training. Sites should be well-designed and maintained with suitable segregation of vehicles and people in order to minimise the risk of workplace transport accidents.

The risks from workplace transport in warehouses and the required control measures to manage those risks are well known and publicised.

This prosecution shows that failing to effectively manage FLT driving operations and risk control measures can expose employees to danger from falling loads and from being struck by a vehicle. These serious injuries were readily preventable.

Ensuring safe management of FLT movement

In industries like transport & storage, construction, and agriculture, workplace transport is a very important element and can involve any activity using vehicles in a workplace.

Often not enough consideration is given to the management of workplace transport, particularly in regards to pedestrian safety.

FLT incidents in numbers

  • In 2014/15 there were 16 fatalities across all industries caused by being struck by a moving vehicle
  • Six* of these fatalities were members of the public
  • There were 500 specific injuries reported

Source: HSE statistics for 2014/15

Forklift trucks are a particular risk within a worksite, and more than half (57%) of those who suffer injuries in accidents involving forklift trucks are workers on foot – not the drivers themselves, according to Mentor Training.

And while employers may have a good grasp on general site safety they may have overlooked the specific risks caused by forklift movement, and getting to grips with FLT movement can contribute to the efficient operation of the site as well as reduce the likelihood of accidents.

It’s also worth noting that the rules around employee liability changed recently, with workers now facing an unlimited fine – and even a prison sentence – if found guilty of negligence following an incident.

What does the law say on FLT movement?

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) applies to all work equipment, including forklift trucks.

The Regulations require:

  • work equipment is suitable for the purpose it is used or provided for, and is properly maintained and inspected at suitable intervals
  • where the use of work equipment is likely to involve specific risks, the use, maintenance etc. of that equipment is restricted to people given the task of using and/or maintaining it
  • users, supervisors and managers have received adequate training for the purposes of health and safety

What are your obligations as an employer? Three things to think about

To ensure the safe management of forklift truck movement employers need to think safe site, safe vehicle and safe driver.

1. Safe site

Where possible use physical barriers to segregate pedestrians and forklift movements. If complete segregation is not possible use designated traffic routes, one-way systems and clear signage. Make sure the site has adequate lighting and is organised to avoid sharp corners and blind bends where possible.

Safe systems of work including risk assessments must also be in place. Introduce a system for controlling deliveries on site, and make sure visitors are provided with site rules and are not left unaccompanied. Restrict public access and have a designated reception/registration area.

2. Safe vehicle

Ensure the forklift is suitable for the purpose for which it is used. Pre-use inspection checks should be carried out and any faults reported. All lifting equipment is subject to thorough examination and must be carried out on an annual basis, with records kept.

3. Safe driver

All operators must be competent and able to operate the forklift in a safe manner, so keep a training record for each driver and monitor their performance to establish their actual level of competence.

This is also useful to help identify any additional training needs. Do not allow unauthorised drivers to operate the forklift at any time, including external personnel such as delivery drivers.

Ensure operators have a full site induction, are aware of any site speed limits, and are properly briefed on any other safety rules.

If you require any advice and guidance to help you establish if your business is fully legally compliant in providing and maintaining a safe place of work, or to check your risk assessments are suitable and sufficient contact us or call 0345 184 4615.

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About the author

Donna Buckle

She has eight years' experience in the field of environmental health, having previously worked in the charitable sector as Health & Safety Lead and Depot Manager before joining the team as a Consultant in 2015. Donna is NEBOSH-qualified and a University of Reading graduate.

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