Following a spate of serious accidents involving forklift trucks, Briggs Equipment UK, the UK independent supplier of materials handling solutions, has issued a timely reminder of potential hazards ahead of the festive season.
The run up to Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the operators of forklift truck fleets and extra care needs to be taken, both at management level and on the shop floor to avoid the festive rush becoming a seasonal tragedy.
That's the view of Gavin Wickham, Operations Director at Briggs Equipment UK, who says that - if they haven't done so already - businesses should urgently review their health and safety procedures ahead of the Christmas period.
Past research by Briggs Equipment suggests a sudden increase in workload can lead to a disproportionate increase in accidents involving forklifts and managers need to face up to a number of challenges.
"From our own experience and previous industry research we know there is a clear link between increased activity in the pre-Christmas period and the number of accidents, but the reasons behind this are not so clear cut," explained Gavin.
Whilst not necessarily the cause of recent incidents, previous studies suggests that 10 to 15 per cent of all accidents are the result of inadequate training. This is likely to become a greater risk during busy periods when agency or other temporary staff are employed to cope with demand.
"Other factors may also contribute to the problem, including more experienced staff taking procedural 'short cuts' to keep up with the increased workload," Gavin said.
"However, there are simple steps that businesses can take to reduce the risk of accidents, which not only have a human cost but a significant impact on productivity."
These steps include making sure that all temporary staff are fully familiar with both the work environment and the equipment they are using, perhaps by introducing a thorough induction process if one is not already in place. It's also useful to conduct extra safety briefings for longer-serving employees.
"Most importantly managers need to recognise that safety could be compromised if there are insufficient staff or equipment to cope with increased demand over the Christmas period," Gavin said. "Put staff and equipment under too much pressure and there will be a greater temptation to take short cuts and therefore a greater risk of accidents.
"As such accidents can be costly in terms of downtime and possible legal action, failure to invest in temporary resources to cope with the rush could prove a false economy," he added.