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Your guide to forklift safety and the law

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For those who work with forklift trucks – either as an employer, operator, or manager – the abundance of relevant regulations can make understanding your legal responsibilities seem overwhelming.

But one piece of legislation it’s vital that you’re familiar with is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASAWA), as it forms the basis for all UK Health and Safety Law, and finding yourself on the wrong side of it could cost you dearly.

Here, we’ve put together a need-to-know guide to the Act’s most relevant sections for forklift safety, along with some helpful tips for meeting your legal obligations.

Employer’s responsibilities

Put simply, under the HASAWA, employers have a general duty of care to their employees whilst they are at work. This also extends to anyone else on the premises who could be affected by operations on site (e.g. visitors or contractors). Employers must provide a suitable working environment, as well as appropriate training, equipment and Safe Systems of Work. They must also ensure that their operations or any duties asked of their employees do not put their health and safety at risk.

The HASAWA states that employers must protect employee’s safety “so far as is reasonably practicable” by weighing any risk against the cost, time and effort needed to counter it. For example, if an activity is very low risk but the cost to eliminate it is very expensive, it may not be required to implement the measure.

Employee’s responsibilities

Staff also have responsibilities under the HASAWA, primarily to comply with all safety measures put in place by their employers. They must work safely, for their own good and that of their colleagues, using only the equipment they have been trained to use, in the way they were trained to use it.

They must also work with others to ensure everyone stays safe on site and report any dangerous behaviour. Like the employer’s responsibilities, these are essential requirements, and anyone who fails to comply is breaking the law and risks prosecution.

Important sections for managers

There are sections of the HASAWA which specifically target managers and directors deemed negligent or who ‘turned a blind eye’ to dangerous practice. And unlike criminal law, in the event of a breach you are not innocent until proven guilty. You must prove your innocence by showing you took sufficient measures to comply – and the penalties are severe if you can’t.

A simple way to do this is to follow the guidance set out in the definitive guide to forklift safety and training, Approved Code of Practice L117. In its own words, “This Code has been approved by the Health and Safety Executive…It gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. If you follow the advice you will be doing enough to comply with the law in respect of those matters on which the Code gives advice.”

Essential manager training

If you are in any doubt, Mentor’s Managing Forklift Operations course ensures that those overseeing your operators understand their obligations and how to make sure their teams meet theirs. Not only does the course provide managers with essential knowledge, it also gives them the confidence required to stop bad practice, rectify it and actively uphold forklift safety in the workplace.

As an insight, you can download a free one-page guide to the Health & Safety at Work Act, which is just a sample of the additional reading materials included in the course.

Available face to face and in a new e-learning format, the course outlines your managers’ key responsibilities and much more. Click here for a full course overview.

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