Common causes of forklift truck accidents

The primary cause of the vast proportion of forklift truck accidents in the workplace is the failure of employers to adequately discharge their legal duty of care to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable their employees’ health safety and welfare whilst at work. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires that risk assessments be carried out to identify the level and nature of risks associated with the work activities being undertaken. The Act then further requires that identified risks be eliminated or controlled.

This process provides the basis for what are termed ‘safe systems of work’ which are formal procedures to make sure that work will be carried out safely. These procedures should be issued to all employees affected. Most systemic failures of health and safety in businesses can usually be traced back to a fundamental failure to address these basic legal health and safety requirements.

There are further duties placed on employers, under other UK health and safety regulations to specifically ensure that forklift trucks pose as little risk as possible to their operators and pedestrians. These regulations cover the layout of the workplace and the operation and safety of forklift trucks. It goes without saying that should an employer be negligent or careless in carrying out their legal duties, there will almost certainly be consequences that unfortunately, as statistics reveal, include fatalities and serious injuries to their employees.

Bearing in mind that 70% of all accidents involving forklift trucks are to pedestrians, i.e. you are, as an employee, more than twice as likely to be hit or crushed by a forklift truck than to fall from one, and that employers surveyed by the Health and Safety Executive claimed that just two factors: operator training and forklift/pedestrian segregation made the largest by far improvement to health and safety we will start by placing them at the top of our causes of forklift truck accidents. Those main causes are:

• Inadequate operator training, supervision and management (despite a legal minimum training requirement).

• Inadequate segregation of forklift truck operations from pedestrians.

• Failure to equip pedestrians with high-viz clothing if they work near forklift operations

• Workplaces poorly designed for the safe movement of forklift trucks – including such factors as poor lighting, headroom and aisle/gangway width.

• Unaddressed environmental risks such as dangerous surfaces (potholes and small piles of debris, curbs, ramps and road humps).

• Poorly maintained forklift trucks

• Forklift trucks being inadequate or unsuitable for the tasks being undertaken.

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