Whilst recently on a site in the North West, to undertake a DSEAR assessment, we observed a number of forklift truck operators moving around large containers of flammable liquids. As part of our survey we asked about the competency of the drivers and was surprised that only one had received formal training and that he had trained the other drivers.
Now we know this is something that some companies will undertake in-house but normally only after the on-site trainer is deemed to have passed a train the trainer programme; in this company this had not happened. So we challenged the company as to why all truck drivers had not been formally trained; their answer was that they had not believed the regulations required this.
We suggested that perhaps they should into this again as forklift trucks are known to be high risk activities (especially if improperly operated) and account for some very serious injuries or worse in workplaces. In fact, the HSE has identified that on average forklift trucks are involved in 24% of all workplace transport accidents. Many of these accidents involving lift trucks are often attributed to poor supervision and a lack of training. In the past MESH has been involved in accident investigations following such accidents and have invariably found operator error due to insufficient training as a key failure. For further information please see the HSE advice at http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/personnel/lifttrucks.htm
The legislation and guidance surrounding the operation of forklifts identifies the importance of ensuring drivers are trained to a suitable standard and that those supervising the tasks are also trained to recognise the risks and the controls that should be in place.
In a recent prosecution, Palletways (UK) Ltd was ordered to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs for failing to adequately train or supervise a forklift driver who sustained a broken neck whilst moving a load around. The man had been trained by a colleague who was not suitably qualified.
The HSE inspector prosecuting the case commented that there is no excuse for failing to undertake proper risk assessment, not providing suitable training or supervision.
Have you checked the competence of your forklift drivers recently as it’s important to routinely check operator competence levels and to ensure refresher training is provided?