As an employer, you may have lifting equipment such as forklift trucks in your business premises.
You are responsible for providing training and testing for all your lift truck operators and to maintain health & safety in your workplace.
If you don't control the risks associated with forklift trucks, they can cause lasting harm. These can be damage to your property, or injuries and ill health to the operator in the cab and pedestrians in the workplace.
In this guide, we'll look at what a forklift truck risk assessment is, the legislation around forklift trucks, and legal requirements for employers.
What is a forklift truck risk assessment?
A forklift truck risk assessment is a document that you use to identify and reduce the risks of using lift trucks in your business premises.
If the lift trucks in your business are in conditions that cause deterioration, you must carry out these assessments on a regular basis.
What are the risks of using forklift trucks?
Forklift trucks are not inherently dangerous, but there are some risks that are involved with using them that can cause irreversible damage. The following are the most common risks:
- Exceeding speed limits.
- Not wearing seatbelts.
- Unsafe load of transportation such as using a single fork tine.
- Inadequate pedestrian barriers.
- Poor visibility when using the truck.
By following health & safety guidelines and providing appropriate training to your staff, you can greatly reduce the number of fatalities and injuries involved when using these vehicles.
Legislation around lift trucks
The legislation that surrounds forklift trucks consists of the following:
- Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 (The HSW Act).
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).
- The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Some of the mentioned regulations may slightly overlap. But you simply need to be aware of the essential requirements that each piece of legislation imposes on you as an employer when you operate lifting vehicles.
The legal requirements are explained in more detail below:
Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the following are important factors you should consider:
- You should carry out risk assessments if you operate lift trucks in your work areas.
- If you have five employees or more, you must record the key findings of the lift truck risk assessment.
- The risk assessment you conduct should be straightforward and understandable. Unless in cases where you deal with serious hazards at a nuclear power station, a chemical plant, a laboratory, or an oil rig.
According to PUWER, you must:
- Ensure the lift truck is used in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications and instructions.
- Ensure the real task that the lift truck will be doing on your premises must be compatible with how it is designed.
- Ensure there is enough space between the moving parts of the lift truck.
- Ensure the operator of the lift truck is trained and not exposed to any ergonomic issues or anything causing ill health.
According to LOLER, you must:
- Ensure lift trucks that are exposed to deteriorating conditions receive regular inspections by a competent person to avoid issues that could cause fatalities and injuries.
- Ensure that all additional inspections and tests advised by the competent person are completed within the specified timeframe.
The scope and frequency of inspections depend on the competent person's opinion.
Who is a competent person for inspecting lift trucks?
A competent person who inspects the lift trucks is one who satisfies the following criteria:
- They should have enough knowledge and experience with lift trucks.
- They should be able to detect issues and assess how important they are regarding the safety and continued use of the vehicles.
- They should not be the same person who repairs the trucks or performs routine maintenance.
- They should be independent and impartial enough to make valid decisions for the lift truck.
The competent person may be employed by a separate company or selected by an employer from members of their own staff.
How to carry out a forklift truck risk assessment
Before starting the risk assessment process, think about how lift trucks could cause accidents to pedestrians, operators, and employees in your business areas.
Concentrate on real dangers and check to see if clear signs and markings are in place. Additionally, check if appropriate training on lift trucks was previously provided to the operators and employees working in the areas.
Identify the potential hazards
Walk around your workplace and think about any potential hazards that can be posed by lift trucks. Think about what it is about the lift trucks that can cause injuries to a pedestrian or any of your employees and harm their health.
Determine who might be harmed and how
Think how employees, lift truck operators, pedestrians, contractors or visitors might be harmed by the trucks.
It's good practice to identify the groups of individuals who may be harmed by a lift truck. Then, ask each group about the dangers they believe a lift truck poses, as they may notice something you don't. They may also have some useful recommendations for mitigating them.
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Now you should assess how likely it is that the lift trucks will cause harm and what you need to do about it. Training everybody who is likely to be exposed to the dangers is an effective approach.
For example, carrying a heavy load on lift trucks might seem risk-free for the truck operators at first. But if they receive training and be made aware of the possible dangers, they will be able to prevent them.
Record your findings and implement them
Make a record of your significant findings. The hazards associated with the trucks, how they may cause harm to people, and what measures you have in place to control them.
If you have fewer than five employees, you are not legally required to write anything down. But it is beneficial to do so, so that you may examine it later.
A forklift truck risk assessment should show that:
- The trucks were checked properly.
- You asked who might be affected.
- You addressed all of the obvious serious hazards that the lift trucks could cause.
- Lift truck measures are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low.
Review your risk assessment and update if necessary
You may eventually bring in new trucks, as well as other substances and procedures that could pose new hazards.
So, it makes sense to analyse what you're doing on a regular basis, review your risk assessment, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have there been any notable changes?
- Is there anything further you can do to improve?
- Have your employees identified a problem?
- Have you learned anything through accidents or near misses?
The importance of risk management for lift trucks
If as an employer you don't properly manage the risks of lift trucks in your business, you may be subject to penalties under PUWER regulations. These penalties may consist of hefty fines, criminal prosecution, or even imprisonment.
Even after you conduct a detailed risk assessment, there are still health & safety risks associated with a forklift truck that you are responsible to mitigate.
For example, a heavy load on the forks can always be a potential risk for the person in the cab, especially if they haven't had accurate training.
Even if the load is within the truck's capacity, a heavy load can make it difficult for the operator in the cab to see their surroundings. This will increase the risk of collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians or racking, and will more likely result in severe injuries and ill health.
Aside from posing legal and health & safety issues, accidents and fatalities caused by lift trucks can damage your facilities, equipment, and inventory.
For example, if the lift truck forks strike your roller doors, the doors won't operate until they have been fixed. This will make you lose money due to production loss.
Get expert advice on lift truck risk assessments from Peninsula
If you have forklift trucks in your business premises, you must maintain their safety and make sure they are used in accordance with how they were designed.
If you don't manage to control the dangers of these trucks, they can cause a variety of injuries to you and your employees and damage your property.
You must ensure that the operators receive appropriate training and that risk assessments are reviewed on a regular basis. You can always use the services of experts to carry out the assessments.
Peninsula offers 24/7 Health & Safety advice on forklift truck risk assessment which is available 365 days a year.
Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4376 and book a free consultation with one of our health & safety consultants.