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Reduce the risk of costly damage in 3 simple steps

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Our recent forklift safety survey revealed that a shocking amount of businesses do not actively monitor incremental damage on their sites, only becoming aware of it after an accident occurs.

Unfortunately, many businesses seem to readily accept needless breakages, and write off thousands of pounds worth of preventable damage to trucks, racking, buildings and stock.

But, worse still, frequent damage is an indicator that bad practice is occurring within your operations, and it is certainly not something to be ignored. It implies that your forklift operators are not working safely, and this could lead to a far more serious accident in future, one involving injuries or even fatalities. There are also financial implications to consider, be that replacement racking, expensive equipment repairs, delays and disruption, even compensation pay-outs, fines and legal fees, should a serious incident occur.

When it comes to preventing damage, it certainly pays to be proactive, not reactive. Here are three simple things you can do to reduce the risk of accidents and costly damage within your operations.

1. Provide sufficient training

In line with the HSE’s definitive guide to forklift safety and training – Approved Code of Practice (L117) – all operators must receive three elements of training before they are authorised to use a forklift truck: basic, job-specific, and familiarisation. This will provide them with the skills and knowledge required to operate their equipment, handle their loads, and understand the risks associated with their working environment.

But forklift operator training alone is not the answer. Human behaviour, and the repetitive nature of many operators’ daily tasks, requires those responsible for overseeing operations to be vigilant for any lapses in best practice.

This means that managers must also receive relevant training, giving them the ability to identify bad practice and the confidence to enforce it. For example, Mentor’s Managing Forklift Operations course covers spotting and preventing unsafe practice, as well as how to communicate effectively with operators.

2. Monitor regularly

Our survey found that far too often, operators are left to their own devices and are actually the ones who control day to day operations, rather than managers. This lack of supervision allows operators to self-regulate what they consider to be acceptable practice, and corner-cutting and bad habits can soon become the norm.

Even if companies do have policies in place for monitoring staff, time pressures and busy sites mean managers can become side-tracked with other responsibilities. But by making monitoring a priority, and taking the time to ‘walk the floor’, managers are able to assess operator safety and efficiency, and correct behaviour where necessary. It also gives managers the opportunity to identify any additional forklift refresher training requirements, or whether safety measures need to be communicated better to improve awareness.

3. Review procedures

Businesses change regularly, so it’s vital that processes and safe systems of work are constantly reviewed to ensure that they remain relevant, and get updated if they are not.

Managers are the vital link between your company policies and what actually happens in practice. They should ensure that safe systems of work are being followed and, if they aren’t, find out why. There may be a practical reason why operators are not carrying out a task in a certain way, but until this is recognised, and a better solution established, your procedures will remain ineffective. Your policies and procedures must be regularly reviewed to keep your operations safe and productive for the long term.

Ultimately, damage to equipment, racking and stock is not just an unnecessary cost in itself. It’s a warning that you’ve got bigger problems in the form of unsafe operational practice. Simply writing this off could cost you dearly in the future, and not just financially, should the worst happen.

Whereas relatively cost-effective measures such as staff training, regular monitoring and reviews, will do far more than reduce damage costs – the proactive approach will protect your people, your productivity and your profit margins.

To find out more, take a look at our full Forklift Safety Insights report here.

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