Heed warning or face prosecution

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Forklift truck (FLT) drivers will find it easier to sue their bosses for damages, thanks to new regulations being introduced because of the forthcoming EU Directive on Physical Agents (Vibration). The Directive, which comes into effect from 2006, means warehouse managers will have to identify where staff are at risk from whole body vibration (WBV) – a condition that can lead to back pain and injury – and take active steps to reduce exposure to a minimum level.

Those that do not comply with the new legislation will face criminal prosecution which could prove very costly if they lose. Small businesses could go out of business as a result.

But why are there some managers who wait until they are forced through legislation to ensure their employees work in a safety and injury-free environment?

Vibration is being highlighted through the Directive but it is not the only health and safety issue that managers should be concerned about. With warehouses invariably being noisy environments, does staff have the right ear protection? Do employees working with diesel forklifts in closed off areas have protection from the exhaust fumes?

The major forklift truck manufacturers are taking more than a keen interest in health and safety issues by developing products that relieve operator stress and fatigue. They have produced environmentally-friendly alternatives to diesel forklifts; developed vibration-free trucks; ensured FLTs have all-round visibility.

FLT manufacturers are doing their bit. It’s up to warehouse managers to start doing theirs by introducing improved working practices and updating their forklift truck fleets. It could prove less costly.

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