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Producing an Effective Forklift Safety Action Plan:

4 Tips for SHEQ Managers

Essential Forklift Safety Action Plan: A Guide for SHEQ Managers

A forklift safety action plan should be developed for use by trained and qualified operatives and supervisors. A SHEQ or Health & Safety Manager has a responsibility to ensure all personnel have the knowledge and skill-set sufficient to undertake their work efficiently within the established guidelines. As such, a safety plan is no substitute for training, but is specifically to be used only by those trained to grasp it.

Your plan should incorporate the various types of forklifts and machinery that warehouse staff are likely to encounter in your premises. There are several kinds of forklift and, while your warehouse will likely use two or perhaps three at most, it is worthwhile to include others as a failsafe in case you lease or hire such a vehicle in the future. While a fuller action plan can be developed for that particular type of vehicle during the acquisition process, to have laid the groundwork beforehand will enable a speedier production when the time comes, and serve to give new employees a more comprehensive induction.

Primary among the concerns of the SHEQ, when it comes to forklift operation, are interacting with pedestrians, fire security, prevention of overturning, loading protocols and surface management.This is by no means an exhaustive list and a full plan should include areas of operation peculiar to your premises, stock and general working practices.

To give an insight into the scale of the problem: recent statistics have shown that accidents involving forklifts are more common than any other type of workplace transport accident. In fact, they account for 25% of all such accidents in the UK – amounting to five incidents a day – making the forklift the most dangerous of all goods vehicles.

Around 1,300 workers are hospitalised each year due to accidents involving forklifts; 43% of these incidents involve contact with another person, and 65% of these were pedestrians not engaged in any work.

Given the immediate and significant risk posed to the public, it is obvious that a community-minded approach is crucial in the formulation of a safety plan.

Furthermore, the plan should be developed with reference to existing policies, particularly those relating to your Competency Framework, Resourcing, and Occupational Health.

Such a plan can be developed only by a SHEQ manager who is fluent in the principles of forklift operation. For that reason, a manager should never neglect the technical foundations of the work. Only with such knowledge can you anticipate and plan for all of the potential incidents that may arise from misuse, carelessness, or pure chance.

To aid you in your creation of your action plan, we have compiled four key points that must not be overlooked in the course of its development.

1. Know Your Liability

As we know, commercial pressures often serve to clash with the objectives a SHEQ or health and safety department; the success of large businesses in great part depends upon the policies and procedures implemented to enable the smooth communication between the SHEQ and other departments, and their capacity to share accountability and execute decisions to their mutual advantage.

The effectiveness of those policies and procedures is brought to light in the event of a workplace accident. Due to the enormous stress such an event places upon a business, it is imperative a robust and interconnected series of systems is in place to control damage to staff and assets, and minimise the legal and financial risks to the company.

The company is legally responsible for the safety of its employees while they are at work. An employee cannot be dismissed because they have had an accident, nor for bringing a claim for compensation against the company. If the injury results in the employee’s absence from work, the company’s sick pay policy must be observed for the appropriate period of time.

Even if the accident has come about through the injured party’s misuse of equipment, negligence or even malice, the company may be held accountable for the damages sustained. However, if the subsequent investigation finds the employee wholly to blame for their accident, a claim cannot be brought against the company. If it is found that the employee was partially to blame, a claim for a reduced sum may be made.

If the accident has come about through improper training, inadequate equipment, an unsafe working environment, or unclear policies, guidelines or instructions, the company will, in most cases, be held fully responsible.

Because of the nature of forklift operation – the weight and dimensions of the vehicle, the spatial limitations, heavy equipment, and limited visibility of the driver – injuries are often severe, and the resulting compensation claims steep. If an accident occurs once, every effort must be made to prevent another of the same kind. The circumstances of an accident can be learned from and the information used to stress important points in your action plan.

Essential Forklift Safety Action Plan: A Guide for SHEQ Managers, NEDS, North East Driving School

2. Make use of the latest safety technology

A major contributing factor to forklift-related accidents is occupational health hazards. Dangers coming into this category are often unspoken and may go unmonitored for long periods of time. Because of this, a serious accident such as one involving a forklift can be the culmination of long-term suffering on the part of the employee. An employer’s duty of care to staff incorporates mental as well as physical well-being; a SHEQ manager should be vigilant in ensuring this duty of care extends to the unseen as well as the visible dangers of warehouse activity.

To this end, there are numerous technologies that can be employed to monitor, assess and remedy occupational health hazards continually. Implementing some of these aids into your systems can bolster morale and increase productivity, as well as minimising the risks attendant upon long-term suffering.

Devices such as vibration reducers can, in addition to the obvious physical advantages, make for a less stressful working environment. Any innovation that streamlines or automates manual processes can improve efficiency enormously and minimise opportunities for accidents and work-related illnesses.

By monitoring health and wellbeing a SHEQ manager demonstrates a proactive attitude, and allows his department to engage with other departments in an effort to introduce an interconnected set of systems to safeguard employee health while the business grows. A recent survey found that 67% of employers in the UK utilise online platforms to monitor staff wellbeing; 42% use mobile phone apps to the same end.

For your action plan to be maximally effective, occupational health measures must be taken into consideration, and a robust, integrated plan for monitoring stress factors fleshed out in full.

3. Include clear procedures for pedestrian interaction

Because pedestrians will not be trained for interaction with forklifts, nor aware of all the hazards entailed in their operation, their interaction with the vehicles must be managed down to the last detail.

This is achieved through a comprehensive traffic management plan. The main purpose of this plan is to protect pedestrians from vehicles and moveable machinery. Traffic management should be dealt with in a separate, dedicated policy document; however, you cannot develop your forklift safety action plan without referencing your procedures for ensuring pedestrian safety. These procedures should be mirrored in your forklift safety plan, and all employees should be trained on how to follow them correctly as part of their induction. Regular refresher training on this important topic should be undertaken also.

The areas of your traffic management strategy to be incorporated into your forklift safety plan are as follows:

  • Pedestrian-only areas (no-go areas for forklifts);
  • Forklift-only areas (no-go areas for pedestrians);
  • Signage and speed-limiting devices;
  • The flow of traffic;
  • Goods likely to be moved;
  • Extension of the forks and weight limit;
  • Visibility (arrangement of stock; design of the area; bright clothing).

4. Ensure a robust reporting system is in place

The final key area to consider is incident reporting. A reporting system must be in place that is both clear and effective and that all employees are trained adequately to use it.

An incident report may be completed by any member of staff. An incident is defined as something that disrupts the workplace; creates a significant risk to persons or property; impacts systems or operations; and brings negative publicity to the company.

Four types of incidents should be reported: sentinel events; near misses; adverse events; and no-harm events.

Sentinel events are those in which physical or psychological harm is caused to an employee or pedestrian, or damage is caused to stock or equipment. Near misses are events of significant danger in which no damage was sustained; adverse events relate to vaccines and medicine, ie if a worker, for whatever reason, is prevented from taking medication, or is given a vaccine to which they are averse; and no-harm events are those that must be communicated between departments to raise awareness of the potential danger that may arise from such a scenario.

Your forklift safety action plan must include the steps necessary to report an incident. That is, what can be reported when to report it, what to include in the report, and who to send the report to. All staff members must be aware of these steps and a separate policy document should be created detailing the procedure at length; your safety action plan need not repeat it verbatim but must cover the fundamentals and reference the document directly.

All events of the types described above must be escalated through the appropriate channels, with utmost accuracy, and your procedures should make it as easy as possible for all members of staff to do so. A SHEQ department cannot function adequately, nor will its data be correct, if incidents go unreported or are inaccurately recorded.

In Summary

With due attention to the above requirements, an effective forklift safety action plan may be drawn up and implemented for the well-being of warehouse staff and pedestrians; however, a plan such as this should be tailored to your business and should take into account the working practices of each premise across the group as a whole.

To write a comprehensive and customised plan may require input from warehouse managers, staff and directors. If you would like to have a fuller discussion about precisely what the creation of such a report entails, please feel free to book a call with NEDs.

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