Notes from the 2014 Fork Lift Truck Conference

As a provider of MHE Safety Inspection systems, SG World attended the annual National Fork Lift Safety Conference organized by the FLTA. Lisa Robinson, SG World Communications Manager, reports back on a very informative day.

The 2014 conference – ‘Is there a Killer in Your Warehouse’– was a very well attended event with the largest audience to date and a packed agenda of guest speakers. This year the conference introduced a number of case studies sharing real programs and initiatives designed to reduce accidents involving fork lift trucks.

Peter Harvey, Chief Executive FLTA, introduced the conference reminding delegates of the four enemies of workplace safety – ignorance, apathy, budget and complacency. He also shared the results of this year’s FLT safety quiz which saw a significantly higher proportion of operators passing than manager/supervisor level.  This interesting statistic was later touched on by Chris Briggs, General H&S Manager at JCB, in his presentation. He asked the question, “How can a supervisor pull up poor FLT safety without an in depth knowledge of how to operate the vehicle themselves?”, an issue addressed in JCB in a companywide FLT training program including management and operators.

In a Keynote Address, Phil White and Andrew Wetters delivered an update from the HSE. Mr White reflected on the 40th anniversary of the landmark Health & Safety at Work Act and its huge impact across the UK workplace. It’s a great achievement that even with the advent of much more powerful MHE machinery, accidents have consistently reduced over the years.  However MHE, including FLTs, still account for nearly a quarter of work based accidents and more importantly, when a fork lift is involved, the resulting injury is much more likely to be serious. Once again, the main reasons behind FLT accidents were poor risk assessment, lack of pedestrian segregation and a weak safety culture.  Stuart Taylor, from Mentor FLT Training, picked up this issue in his ‘Changing Culture’ presentation, discussing how repetition creates complacency. Routinely repeating risky behaviours with a history of ‘getting away with it’ creates the illusion that everything is under control. That’s until the next accident happens…

We had a quick run through of recent case histories including a shocking instance of a firm forging inspection documents on a vehicle subsequently investigated and found to exhibit 40 mechanical faults.

One of the case studies that stood out for me was a presentation from Kate Everitt at GKN outlining their Group thinkSAFE Programme. The program shared many points of good practice with the other initiatives presented in the room, with the interesting addition of the Virtual Incident Room (VIR) – local access to a central databank of information on accidents, including animated reconstructions of the actual accident. Obviously these video animations would have involved some work and cost but they worked really well and delivered a visual ‘punch’ difficult to get across with an A4 accident form.  The viewer instantly sees and understands exactly what happened and can even wince in sympathy when witnessing a very painful injury. This really brings home the safety message.

The conference was just one element of Fork Lift Safety Week; an opportunity to stop and really think about the potential killer in your warehouse. For companies looking to improve the way they manage pre-use safety inspections, visit the SG World website to see a wide range of FLT and MHE checklist based inspections systems.

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