Safety aspects to consider when buying a forklift truck. Forklift trucks are used widely throughout industry to move goods and materials, so making sure they aren’t involved in workplace accidents is paramount. Forklift safety is the key to avoiding accidents, as even if no-one is injured, costly damage can occur to the forklift truck, the goods being handled, the fittings and even the building.

There are around 1,250 accidents involving forklift trucks in the UK every year – and sadly, an average of ten are fatal, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Employers should take practical steps to ensure the safety of employees, including the forklift truck operator and other people in the workplace.

Forklift truck safety rules

A number of forklift safety rules govern their use in industry, including the UK’s main workplace legislation, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which makes it the employer’s duty to provide safe premises, plant and equipment.

Other legislation sets a requirement for employees‘ risk assessments and adequate training to operate forklift trucks without compromising their health and safety. In addition, all work equipment must be suitable for its intended purpose and should be regularly inspected and maintained.

As part of their training, the people operating forklift trucks, or supervising their operation, should understand their vehicle’s characteristics and the potential hazards. A long reach truck is an incredibly useful tool, but if used in an incorrect manner, it can jeopardise safety. There are many safety aspects to consider when buying a forklift truck and other material handling equipment.

Using forklifts correctly

Using a forklift truck to lift loads, move them and re-stack them in a different place is vital to the operation of many industries. The mass of the truck acts as a counterweight, so the operator can lift the load and move it safely.

However, if the operator hasn’t been properly trained, the forklift truck can be tipped forward if the load is too heavy or incorrectly placed on the fork arms. Similarly, if the driver accelerates too fast, or brakes too hard, while carrying a heavy load, the forklift’s stability can be threatened.

The stability can be compromised if the operator turns at speed, or travels across an incline that is too steep, causing the forklift truck to tilt at too sharp an angle. The danger of the truck turning on its side is greater when the load in the raised position.

Safety measures

Legislation requires certain types of forklift trucks to be fitted with safety measures to prevent them from rolling over and injuring the driver. They must comply with the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

They stipulate the forklift truck must be adequately strong and sufficiently stable to lift and carry the load. The equipment must also be capable of lifting people safely, with a purpose-built forklift safety cage used to offer a strong working deck.

The law requires that forklift trucks that lift a load are examined every 12 months, or every six months if they lift people using the forklift cage. The person in control, such as the forklift operator, or a slinger, must have sufficient knowledge of the loads, conditions and safe working practices to ensure safe compliance with the rules.

Poor visibility impact

Managers must also consider whether poor visibility is putting the business at risk when it comes to forklift trucks. When purchasing a new truck, operator visibility is top of the list of the most critical factors in making a decision. This usually comes ahead of operating costs, stability and reliability.

In a survey of companies that used forklift trucks, 62% of respondents stated operator visibility was the most critical safety factor when buying a new forklift.

There’s a very good reason for this: during forklift operations, the driver relies on his or her vision to gather much of the information needed to complete the task in hand. It’s no surprise that visibility issues are cited in more than 80% of accidents involving forklift trucks.

Nowhere is this threat greater than when the trucks are lifting loads to a height of three or four metres and higher. This is when visibility is absolutely crucial, as employees are exposed to real dangers from falling items if the forklift operator isn’t in total control of the movements and can’t see what’s happening.

Reducing accident risks

Studies show up to two-thirds of forklift accidents injure someone who wasn’t driving the truck at the time. This means anyone working at the company’s premises, or even just visiting, is at risk of injury.

Another leading cause of accidents involving forklift trucks is falling loads. In fact, this accounts for 40% of fatal accidents, according to a 20-year study. Every single accident is a tragedy, which is why forklift operators‘ visibility is extremely high on the list of important safety factors.

Traditionally, forklift drivers are protected from falling objects by metal bars on the roof of the overhead guard. They are extremely effective at preventing larger objects from falling on the operator – and as long as their effectiveness is balanced with ensuring the driver still has good visibility, they can prevent accidents.

When you’re looking for a reliable forklift supplier, EP Equipment is dedicated to the safety of all our products, giving clients added confidence when purchasing from us. With our wide range of forklifts, there is something to suit every need, including electric forklifts, reach trucks, IC forklifts and more.