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Forklift awareness more vital than ever during unprecedented times

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Over recent months we have seen how quickly circumstances can change, and the long-term effects that occur as a result. The common commitment to adopting precautions such as social distancing in order to keep ourselves safe demonstrates our new heightened sense of caution, when it comes to our health.

But we mustn’t overlook the knock-on effects on our working lives that could compromise our safety as well. Sites have had to adapt layouts, procedures, staff working patterns and much, much more to continue to function and, if teams don’t recognise the associated risks, accidents can soon occur, with serious consequences.

So how can you best protect your team as things change? The key is raising (and maintaining) awareness across the board — from newly unfurloughed employees to those who have worked relentlessly throughout lockdown – as all face their own challenges.

Returning to work

Forklift operators returning to work after an extended period away may have experienced skill fade so it’s important that their safety and operating standards are checked on their return. They will likely benefit from some form of training to bolster their skills and confidence to fulfill their duties, and additional supervision will help ensure a smooth transition back into work, nipping any bad practice in the bud.

For many companies, business has changed, so it’s possible that operators will have new tasks, procedures and site layouts to acquaint themselves with, too. It’s imperative that returning staff are fully versed in new measures and follow them consistently. New pedestrian/traffic routes or different load types, for instance, can pose huge risks to safety unless forklift operators remain informed and alert.

Ultimately, if operators do not receive sufficient training for their role then they are no longer equipped with the skills to work safely. This puts them and their colleagues at risk of accidents, injuries and costly damage, and your business at risk of breaching its legal requirements for health and safety.

And it’s not just operators who need to be vigilant. Those working around them are most at risk of injury should a forklift accident occur, so they must remain aware of the risks posed by these trucks, and the severity of the consequences if measures put in place for their safety aren’t followed.

Existing workers

For those who have worked throughout lockdown – many in skeleton teams or under unprecedented demand for goods – there are other potential risks.

Unfortunately, when working under pressure, forklift operators often feel they must prioritise speed, taking safety for granted as experienced drivers. The need to meet targets within tight deadlines can make many more likely to cut corners. Complacency can be a real risk when operators feel that they know a job inside out, simply because they do it so often. This soon leads to bad habits which then become the accepted working standard, and operators can lose sight of the dangers and consequences of unsafe practice.

It’s vital that safety awareness is consistently reinforced to keep rushing, complacency and corner cutting at bay, especially in times like these. Even simple changes can increase risk, particularly if habitual shortcuts are taken in favour of fundamental forklift safety basics. This is why we so often see accidents occur when operators encounter a task that differs from their everyday activities. Be sure to emphasise, to operators and their colleagues alike, the importance of sticking to best practice, and refreshing their memories as often as necessary.

For the good of your team & your business

Raising awareness will not only help to keep your staff safe but your business compliant and profitable. Too often we hear of forklift accidents with devastating consequences, huge fines and legal fees. But even minor bumps and scrapes can be costly once you take into account damage to stock and equipment, repairs and replacements, not to mention the impact of associated disruption and downtime on productivity.

By raising forklift awareness amongst those working on and around your trucks, you can help to significantly reduce risk on your site. Now more than ever, with COVID-19, businesses are implementing procedures that employees must follow for their own good. But while implementing new distancing and hygiene policies, don’t forget existing operational risks. Those working with forklift trucks must stay vigilant, because in this unprecedented period of change, the consequences of a forklift accident remain as serious as ever.

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