Leading risk management provider advises on tougher forklift safety measures ahead of peak season

As we enter a season of unprecedented e-commerce sales, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas all around the corner, pioneering risk management firm, Inspire International UK is advising logistics businesses to introduce tougher safety measures.

Predictions expect online sales in e-commerce to increase by as much as 140 per cent this month as shoppers remain indoors during lockdown, but how is this impacting logistics businesses? “Christmas peak in warehouses can be linked with an increase in forklift accidents” explains Jagjeet Virdee, Managing Director of health and safety, environmental and quality management firm Inspire International UK.  

Jag continues: “Many logistics firms will need to cater for increased demand, hiring additional temporary staff and equipment. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment for forklift activities is key to aiding a safe operation and keeping staff safe.

“Every time new equipment, substances and procedures are introduced which could bring new hazards, a risk assessment needs to be undertaken and employees must be made aware. In addition, any temporary staff will need to be efficiently briefed against the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) guidelines. 

“Not following the correct procedures can have damaging consequences for Warehouse Managers and the businesses themselves. If the HSE become aware of any issues it could result in a loss of reputation, prohibition or improvement notices and/or fines, and in some more serious cases even prison sentences if involvement from police and local authorities is required.” 

Here, Jagjeet Virdee, shares advice on the most common hazards related to forklifts in the warehouse environment and how to avoid them: 

The Top 5 Forklift Hazards 

  1. Forklift operators unaware of existing hazards – this can be particularly prominent with new operators. Too often, employees are given a certificate to operate without any suitable job familiarisation or training within the areas of the warehouse they are working in. Alongside this, drivers need to be aware of how to handle forklifts in certain conditions – e.g. operating in the wet, snow and ice or high winds
  2. Lack of forklift servicing & maintenance – regular maintenance checks must be performed to ensure the safety of the forklifts, including recharging of forklift truck batteries which can lead to potential explosion through release of fumes
  3. Introduction of other equipment used in loading and off-loading – including ramps, cages, fork extensions or a new forklift without conversion training or familiarisation experience. Drivers need to be regularly updated on any changes to their working machinery or environment
  4. Collisions – with pedestrians and pickers, racking, dock leveller doors and fixed objects or other powered vehicles, alongside incidents with loading docks on bays. If forklift operators approach the bay too fast, without ensuring the correct safety measures are taken, such as ensuring the trailer is secure or that there is sufficient separation of pedestrians on the vehicle in the loading/offloading areas, it could result in an accident
  5. Overconfident forklift operators – often, like driving a car, forklift operators can become overconfident in their abilities. This can lead to a number of issues including driving while the load is too high, not observing surroundings or looking in the direction of travel (particularly while reversing or moving forward while not being able to see over or past the load they are carrying), driving unladen with the forks raised too high or not paying attention to blind corners. 

If the necessary risk assessment has not been undertaken and the correct safety measures are not followed, it can lead to a number of potential injuries. The top three forklift injuries include: Falling objects from unsecure pallets being loaded or unloaded from high locations; Manual handling injuries including trapped limbs, whiplash or back injuries when not operating at a speed sufficient for ground conditions or not being aware of speed bumps on undulating ground and Collisions – employees being hit by moving forklifts. In the worst-case scenarios, the risks include losing limbs or death from an overturning vehicle.  

Most importantly, managers must educate staff on safety regulations and have regular discussions to advise on current and new regulations alongside any changes within the working environment. ‘Principles of Prevention’must also be implemented and enforced by Managers to enable the business to easily identify, control and eliminate any risks (SFARP) and warehouses should prioritise organisation – from tape guns to forklifts, to avoid creating potential hazards.

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