Forklift trucks are used in many workplaces around the UK, including factories, warehouses, and construction sites. However, they can pose a significant risk of serious injuries to forklift operators and those working around them. Therefore, preventing forklift accidents in the workplace is essential, not only to protect the health and well-being of the workforce but also to avoid potentially costly disruptions and legal liabilities.
This guide on how to prevent forklift accidents in the workplace provides practical actions employers and employees can take to prevent accidents and injuries.
Statistics On Forklift Accidents In Great Britain
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that there are approximately 50 fatal injuries involving work vehicles each year in Great Britain. Statistics covering 2021/22 show that 11% of non-fatal injuries at work were from being struck by a moving vehicle. In the same period, 23 workers were killed by being struck by a moving vehicle.
Although it’s safe to assume that these incidents aren’t all due to forklift trucks, accidents will typically occur due to a variety of factors, including operator error, lack of proper training, and equipment malfunction.
Health & Safety Measures To Prevent Forklift Accidents
Forklifts are powerful vehicles that can cause serious harm, and worse, if not operated properly. Therefore, safety measures such as speed limits, warning signs, and designated walkways for pedestrians are important for preventing injuries and potential legal action by the way of a forklift accident claim.
Some examples of health and safety measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk of injuries include:
Training For All Forklift Drivers
Forklift training should include both classroom instruction and hands-on training so that forklift drivers are familiar with the specific type of forklift/s they will be using and understand how to safely operate it.
Clearly Visible Signage & Markings
Signage and markings indicating where forklifts are allowed to operate, as well as any areas where they’re prohibited should be clearly visible. Warning signs can also help to alert forklift drivers and other workers to any potential hazards. This can include things like designated walkways for pedestrians and blind spots where visibility is limited.
Safety barriers and guards should also be put in place where necessary to protect pedestrians and other workers from being struck by a moving forklift.
Designated Walkways For Pedestrians
Designated walkways for pedestrian traffic in workplace environments such as factories, warehouses and building sites can help to separate foot traffic from forklift traffic, reducing the risk of collisions and other accidents. This can include clearly marked paths, barriers and hazard tape to physically separate the two types of traffic.
Setting speed limits for forklift trucks can help to reduce the risk of accidents caused by excessive speed. This is especially important in areas with high pedestrian traffic or where there is a risk of collisions with other vehicles or equipment.
Implementing safety protocols such as training programs, regular health and safety meetings, and risk assessments can help to make sure that all workers are aware of the potential hazards and understand how to safely operate the forklift and work around it.
Proper Stacking & Storage
Guidelines for safely stacking and storing materials in a factory, warehouse, building site etc help ensure that items are stable and secure so that they shouldn’t pose a hazard to forklift drivers or other employees and workers.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Providing workers with appropriate PPE can help to protect them from warehouse accidents and injuries from a forklift truck. This can include PPE such as hard hats, earplugs or ear defenders, and safety boots, depending on the specific hazards present.
If an employer fails to supply their employees with adequate PPE and they sustain an injury from a forklift accident as a result, they could end up being sued for compensation.
A thorough evaluation of potential hazards in the workplace that could cause harm to the forklift driver or other individuals should be regularly carried out. This risk assessment helps determine if adequate measures have been taken to prevent harm or if additional actions are needed.
By law, the assessment must be deemed “suitable and sufficient” meaning it is comprehensive enough to protect individuals from any foreseeable harm.
Regular Health & Safety Meetings
The workplace should have regular health and safety meetings to remind employees of the current policy and procedures and discuss any recent incidents or near misses to learn from them.
Regular Inspections Of Forklift Trucks
Regular inspections of all forklift trucks and their safety features such as brakes, steering, lights, and horn can help to identify potential issues before they become a problem. This helps ensure that they are in good working condition and that any necessary repairs are made.
Established emergency procedures should be in place in case of accidents involving forklifts or other incidents, and ensure that all workers are familiar with them.
The HSE requires that all forklift operators be adequately trained in accordance with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998. Therefore, employers are responsible for ensuring that their forklift operators are properly trained and certified and should be able to provide proof of such if requested by the HSE. This is important to not only protect the safety of operators and those around them but also to avoid being sued for compensation and other potential penalties.
Forklift operator training should cover a variety of topics including:
- The proper operation of the forklift.
- Safety procedures and regulations.
- Loading and unloading techniques.
- How to properly inspect and maintain the forklift.
Forklift operators should be trained to the standards outlined in the L117 ACOP (Approved Code of Practice) whether they’re trained in-house or externally and should include both classroom instruction and hands-on training. Once training is completed, operators should be assessed and certified as competent to operate the forklift safely.
It’s worth noting that employers also have a duty to assess the driver’s ability to operate the forklift safely, and also to provide refresher training if an operator’s performance is not up to standard.
What Does Training For A Forklift Licence Involve?
You won’t get a forklift licence as there isn’t one. What you will want to get, however, is a forklift operator certificate which is typically achieved through training provided by a qualified instructor. The specific requirements for forklift operator certification may vary depending on the type of forklift being operated and the industry in which it is being used but typically involves:
- Training. The operator must be trained and competent in the safe operation of the forklift truck and the specific tasks they will be required to undertake.
- Practical test. A practical test must be passed, which will assess the operator’s ability to safely operate the forklift truck and carry out specific tasks.
- Theory test. A theory test must be passed, which will assess the operator’s knowledge of relevant health and safety regulations, operating instructions, and emergency procedures.
- A medical. An operator must be fit and healthy and may be required to undergo a medical examination to ensure they are able to safely operate the forklift.
It’s essential for all workplace managers and employees to take any necessary steps to prevent forklift accidents in the workplace. It’s also just as important for forklift operators to take responsibility for their own health and safety and be vigilant to ensure a safe and secure work environment for all.
By taking the necessary steps in this guide, preventing forklift truck accidents should be quite straightforward and will help to ensure that all workers are safe and productive.