Six reasons why managers are failing on forklift safety

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Do you find that despite your company having operator training, risk assessments and relevant safe systems of work in place, forklift accidents, near misses and bad habits persist?

According to a recent Mentor survey of businesses using forklift trucks, one in four respondents said their operators were either not aware of the safe systems of work (SSOW) in place at their company or didn’t comply with them.

We hear from customers, safety professionals and even HSE inspectors themselves that, too often, the safety message gets lost in translation between best practice, documented at senior level, and what’s happening on the ground. There seems to be a missing link.

The importance of following procedures put in place for their protection is simply not impressed upon the workforce.

To bridge the gap, it is necessary to engage supervisors and managers, so that they can steer complacent operators — who are either unaware or unconcerned of the risks — away from bad habits and poor practice.

What’s holding managers back?

Proactive management makes a real difference to the safety culture of a business. But many face a number of barriers that stop them from effectively upholding safety procedures on site. What are they and, more importantly, how can they be overcome?

  1. Lack of knowledge

Managers aren’t legally required to be able to operate a forklift truck, so they might not have first-hand experience of the risks involved.

Even though managers don’t necessarily drive the trucks themselves, it’s still essential that they are able to identify where the dangers lie, so that they can spot unsafe practice and correct it. This is a requirement under the Approved Code of Practice (L117), which all managers should be familiar with.

Managers must ‘walk the floor’ and correct anyone who is not following safe systems of work. Photograph: Mentor FLT Training
  1. Lack of experience

Nowadays, fewer managers have spent time working on the shopfloor, so they may not be aware of common shortcuts or bad habits encountered day-to-day that should be monitored. But the latest sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences mean the stakes are higher than ever; in the event of an accident, businesses (and responsible individuals) could face crippling fines or worse.

Training your managers to understand the importance of regular monitoring will reduce the risk of accidents and is ultimately a much more cost-effective use of resources than the hefty penalties that often follow an incident.

  1. Lack of skills

Given the current skills shortage, it can be difficult to find the right people with the required knowledge to manage your operations. If you don’t have the relevant managers in place, upskilling is a great alternative. Generally speaking, existing staff have an understanding of the business, so why not utilise this and supplement it with additional knowledge so that they can fulfil the role?

  1. Lack of time

Despite other responsibilities, it’s crucial that managers do not neglect their duty to monitor forklift operations.

The policies only work if they are enforced. To ensure that best practice is followed, managers must see the importance of ‘walking the floor’ and correcting anyone who is not following safe systems of work. A big part of this is ensuring that managers understand the potential consequences for themselves, their colleagues and the business, should bad practice be allowed to continue, and result in an accident.

  1. Lack of confidence

Regardless of potential peer pressure, it’s vital that standards are upheld, for everybody’s sake – those on site will be kept safe from accidents and injuries, your managers (and your business) will be meeting their legal responsibilities, and your operations will remain productive.

By ensuring that your managers have a firm grasp of what’s safe and what isn’t, they will feel confident in stopping bad practice in its tracks. Empowering them with the skills and knowledge to do so will also show them that they have your backing to make safety a priority.

  1. Training

Equipping your managers with the tools to fulfil their roles effectively is key to ensuring that the health and safety policies are put into practice day-to-day. But many companies struggle to find a relevant training course that doesn’t require them to release senior staff for long periods away from the business.

Mentor’s new e-learning course – Managing Forklift Operations – has been designed with these challenges in mind. It explains managers’ responsibilities and how to ensure safety is upheld, and the online format means training needn’t interfere with their day jobs. Managers can learn wherever and whenever suits them, so they don’t need to attend face-to-face training for a full day.

There is no doubt that skilled and confident managers are key to upholding safety in your operations.

Stuart Taylor is managing director at Mentor FLT Training



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