If a forklift driver has an accident, what is the management responsibility?

It’s obviously good practice for a fork lift operator/driver to know what they’re doing but there’s a whole raft of health and safety legislation addressing managements responsibilities. In the event of an accident, one of the things an HSE investigation will look at is whether a supervisor has enough training and knowledge to recognise safe and unsafe practices. 

The Regulations

HSW Act :

Requires you to provide adequate supervision. It is essential that supervisors have enough training and knowledge to recognise safe and unsafe practices

PUWER requires that:

Supervisors and managers have received adequate training for the purposes of health and safety, including: training in the methods which may be adopted when using work equipment; any risks which such use may entail; precautions to take,

The HSE ACOP L117 further confirms this, stating supervisors should be able to:

 ■ carry out an effective observation and know what to look for;

 ■ communicate effectively with operators and line managers;

■ recognise unsafe practice and behaviour;

■ maintain and promote health and safety standards

Training

A supervisor doesn’t need to know exactly how to use each type of materials handling equipment, such as a forklift, to the same level that an operator does. However, they should know enough to recognise what’s right and wrong, or what is safe and unsafe. This means that in addition to understanding and providing  driver training, a supervisor needs the right training to understand the risks and give them the confidence to challenge situations if things don't feel right or aren’t being done correctly.

Record Keeping

It’s also essential that a supervisor has the knowledge to implement best practice in forklift truck operations and related activities such as equipment pre-use inspections.

This links to another important responsibility – the surrounding paperwork and administrative duties. For example, records of training, certificates of Basic training, Authorisations to Operate, pre-use inspection records and Records of Thorough Inspection must all be maintained correctly in order to demonstrate compliance in the event of an incident.

A pre-use inspection system which is highly visible and transparent will quickly flag any issues to a supervisor. It should also evidence a regular pre-use inspection routine covering a defined safety checklist appropriate to a forklift or other piece of MHE.

Management responsibilities in summary

If you look at the root causes of an accident even if a forklift driver is directly at fault, there’s a good chance that there was something their supervisor could have and should have checked or spotted beforehand. But, if that supervisor hadn’t received adequate training or support on what to look out for, then there’s a strong argument for the liability going up the chain of command. 

The number of company directors and senior managers prosecuted under health and safety law has risen significantly in recent years, the message from HSE is strong and clear: health and safety violations will be taken very seriously and no one is above the law.

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