Forklift drivers must be supervised and trained, says Aviva

Article date: 16 February 2010

With over 8,000 accidents in the UK every year1 involving forklift trucks, and around 10 resulting in fatality2, Aviva is urging employers to provide adequate training and supervision for both new and experienced drivers.

Aviva is continuing its Simply Safety campaign, now in its third year, kick-starting 2010 with advice to businesses on the dangers of driving forklift trucks.

Phil Grace, liability risk manager, Aviva, says: “Almost a quarter of all workplace transport incidents involve forklift trucks. The most common accidents include people being hit or run over by a forklift truck, being hit by unstable items falling from the vehicle or suffering crush injury accidents and drivers being injured by falling from the forklift or when it overturns. It is therefore essential that when recruiting drivers, employers should check the amount of experience a candidate has, find out where they previously worked and how much forklift driving was involved.

“Employers should always ask potential employees for proof of training. If the employee cannot produce written proof, they should be able to refer to the training scheme they undertook. If employers are in any doubt, they can make checks to avoid accepting fraudulent proof of training.

“And regardless of the level of experience, all new employees should be given induction training to familiarise themselves with the vehicle they will be driving. The same should happen if a business is hiring a new vehicle on a temporary basis or changing forklift manufacturer. No two machines operate in exactly the same way, especially if the make or model of machine is different and drivers must be familiar with the layout of controls,” said Grace.                                                                                                                           

Grace also advises refresher training should be undertaken by all existing employees, preferably every three to five years: “Regardless of how regularly an employee is driving a forklift truck, they will need refresher training. Those who drive daily will need to maintain good driving habits and those who drive less often will need to maintain familiarity with the vehicle,” he said.

A number of prosecutions involving mobile equipment that have taken place recently have been the result of a lack of training or poor supervision. In one case an employee, whilst driving a mini digger which he wasn’t qualified to operate, unintentionally hit a lever as he leaned out of the cab window. The digger arm of the vehicle, which was raised, started to descend, crushing his head between the cab and the arm. He suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead on site. As a result, the company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £29,7983.

Another incident involved a forklift truck driver in West Lothian who was found guilty of breaching Section7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and fined £500. He had provided his employers with evidence of his training and experience which was found to be partially fraudulent. His lack of vehicle knowledge led him to operate the machine without the stabilisers deployed which caused the machine to lose its three tonne load, crushing and seriously injuring a nearby colleague4

“These are just two examples which highlight the importance of training and supervision. In addition, employers or managers have a duty to ensure that workers are fit and competent to operate their vehicles, and that machines and attachments are maintained correctly,” continues Grace.

“There should be basic routine checks made to each forklift before work starts each day and more detailed checks made on a weekly basis. All operators should be aware of where to report any defects and any truck which requires maintenance or replacement equipment should be taken out of service until work has been carried out and approved.

“By law, employers and supervisors must understand their workplace hazards and risks and take steps to eliminate or reduce them. It is also important that supervisors accept the responsibility to communicate to employees any identified hazards and the necessary measures to control them.

“For example, wherever a forklift is being operated, supervisors should ensure that all driving areas are as flat as possible and gangways and aisles have enough overhead space for the largest lift truck.

“Drivers should also wear seat belts and in some cases, a hard hat and protective clothing such as gloves and heavy boots.

“Ideally, employers should also plan ahead and schedule any relevant training or refresher courses throughout the year, taking into consideration holiday cover or any extra workloads which may require additional operators.

“Essentially, the key to minimising the dangers associated with forklift trucks is good training, supervision and cooperation between workers and their managers,” concludes Grace.

Download Simply Safety: helpful tips and advice (PDF 74kb) (Link is no longer active)

-ends-

For further information, please contact:
Jo Rosenberg at Staniforth on 0161 919 8014/07973 143215 or Sally Leeman at Aviva on 01603 684225/07789 27067

Notes to editors

¹ http://www.pintopotts.co.uk/claims/forklift-truck-accidents

² http://www.salford.gov.uk/d/forklifttruckguide.pdf    

³ http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2010/coi-sw-655sww10.htm?ebul=hsegen/18-jan-2010&cr=10

4 http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2009/coisco18209.htm   

  • Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
  • In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers. Aviva also provides roadside assistance through RAC. Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.
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