Thought and ingenuity vital for warehouse safety

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Unsafe working practices account for about 40% of accidents in warehouses and distribution centres, delegates attending the Fork Lift Truck Association’s (FLTA) inaugural Safety Conference, held recently at Warwickshire’s Heritage Motor Centre, heard.

According to Ciaran McMenamin, of CAT Lift Trucks’ UK distributor Finning, while encouraging evidence shows a stead fall in the accident rate, there are still four principal causes of accidents – unsafe working practices (40%); untrained operators or agency staff were involved in 15% of accidents; and poor site management as well as interaction of third parties each featured in 10% of cases.

McMenamin told the conference that the unsafe practices involved the deliberate disabling of safety features to avoid annoyance; and dangerous “short cuts” such as leaving a truck with its engine running and brakes not applied. He added that the user must check driver credentials – in particular that the documents should have been issued by accredited bodies and should be appropriate to the equipment used – and an induction was essential for all new drivers to ensure awareness of site layout, hazards and safety rules. The induction must be followed up by continued supervision.

The HSE’s Gil Male said that 46% of the accidents and incidents that occurred between 1997 and 2001 involved employees being struck by moving trucks; 11% entailed equipment overturning; and 10% saw staff being struck by falling loads. He said counterbalanced trucks featured prominently while reach trucks, although deployed in much smaller numbers, were noticeable in terms of both the number and the severity of accidents in which they featured.

Male said that HSE priorities for action includes driver visibility and work organisation; truck stability; protection against mast trapping accidents; overload and load security; training of drivers and other personnel; and tyre/wheel explosions.

The FLTA’s David Ellison, highlighted the importance of Thorough Examination of Fork Lifts. It was, he said, a legal requirement not covered by routine maintenance. However, it was down to the user to ensure that a valid report of Thorough Examination existed for every truck in service, whether owned or hired.

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