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HSE manager's guide

The Health and Safety managers' guide to lift truck operations

Here is a really useful article by RTITB about the role of the health and safety manager for those involved in forklift truck operations.

Managing lift truck operations for the first time can be daunting even if you’re an experienced Health and Safety Manager. However, the correct management and supervision is essential for ensuring safety and compliance.

Management and supervision can prevent incidents

Whether an incident is caused by a lack of operator training or dangerous practices, often poor management and supervision are at the heart of the incident. That’s why the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974 requires employers to provide adequate supervision.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L117, which covers training and safe use for rider-operated lift trucks, it is essential that supervisors have enough training and knowledge to recognise safe and unsafe practices and the risks involved, and how to avoid or prevent them.
Yet, every week serious incidents and near misses involving materials handling equipment are reported to the HSE, who will take action for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Prosecution for company officials can include those responsible for management and supervision, including Health and Safety Managers like you.

Five tips for safe lift truck operations

The Health and Safety at Work Act is broad, with many regulations used to manage risk in the workplace across many different industries. Although adhering to regulations is a legal requirement, when it comes to lift truck operations, regulations commonly tell you what needs to be achieved, but not how to do so. So, if you’re new to managing lift truck operations, where should you begin? Here are 5 tips from our experts to help you better understand the regulations that affect you and what your responsibilities are.

1. Read the right guidance, and act upon it

ACOP L117 – Rider Operated Lift Trucks: Operator training and safe use’ is essential reading for anyone managing lift truck operations, or indeed any type of materials handling equipment which is rider operated.

ACOPs provide a blueprint for good practice alongside practical examples. It makes your job simpler by interpreting the law for you, making it easier to understand what the law requires. There is no legal obligation to follow an ACOP, but in the event of an incident, employers can be prosecuted if it can be proven that this guidance was not followed. However, if you do act upon the guidance, you will be doing enough to comply.

The HSE document ‘Lift truck training: advice for employers’ (series code INDG462) is another essential read, but there may also be others that are relevant to your particular industry or operation. Visit the HSE website to download guidance documents for free.

2. Understand “how it works”

To be a good manager or supervisor of lift truck operations, a good knowledge of operating and safe working practices is required. You don’t need to know exactly how to use each type of materials handling equipment in your operation to the level that an operator does, but you should know enough to recognise what’s right and wrong, or what is safe and unsafe.

Ensure that you have received sufficient training to be able to understand the risks involved in lift truck operations and how to avoid and prevent them. Moreover, make sure you have the confidence to challenge when you feel that things aren’t being done correctly – it is never worth taking the risk.

3. Know your responsibilities around training

As previously mentioned, being familiar with the regulations appropriate to your operation is essential for a Health and Safety Manager, as is having enough knowledge of best practice in lift truck operating, as well as related activities such as equipment pre-use inspections.

However, there are other responsibilities too. For instance, you should ensure that you’re aware of the operator training regime. What training does each operator require? What should this training cover? When is refresher training required?
It’s essential to ensure you not only understand the three stages of operator training, Basic, Specific Job and Familiarisation, but also why training is an ongoing process that continues into the workplace and needs to be appropriately documented.

To support Health and Safety Managers responsible for lift truck operations, RTITB materials handling equipment training accreditation provides your business with everything you need to stay compliant and up to date on the latest training and testing requirements. Our central database for accredited RTITB partners also makes it quicker and easier for you to verify and record your training records or keep track of and issue certificates.

This links to another important responsibility – the surrounding paperwork and administrative duties. For example, records of training, certificates of Basic training, Authorisations to Operate, pre-use inspection records and Records of Thorough Inspection must all be maintained correctly in order to demonstrate compliance in the event of an incident.

4. Manage general site safety

When it comes to lift truck operations, your role as a Health and Safety Manager is not just about operating standards. Environmental and general safety issues are part of your remit too, so it is important to identify health and safety risks around the site. This could include debris and litter, racking damage, lighting issues, obstructed doorways or stairways, obstructed emergency equipment, spilt liquids, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, pedestrian segregation, signage, and recharging/refueling facilities.

You may need to act yourself, or delegate this, report issues or suggest improvements to processes. Tackling these problems in the long term might require pre-shift meetings, spot checks, infringement targets, one-to-one chats, or warnings.

To help you ensure that correct site inspections are conducted, refer to the HSE’s Workplace Transport Checklist. Whilst safety is of course front of mind, during this process you may also take note of risk to infrastructure and equipment which can be addressed to limit damage and improve efficiency.

5. Keep yourself safe

There are a myriad of health and safety risks in lift truck operations. So, when you’re busy going through the above steps, remember to keep yourself safe when you’re working around machinery or in the live operating environment.

And finally

In addition to the above, it is important to remember your own training too! The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) stipulates that any employee who supervises or manages the use of work equipment should receive adequate training for the purpose of health and safety, including training in the methods of using the work equipment, any risks and precautions to be taken. So, for both compliance and safety, it’s essential that you are appropriately trained, as well as your lift truck operators.

RTITB's Managing and Supervising Materials Handling Equipment Operations course is an ideal way for Health and Safety Managers to learn about their responsibilities regarding MHE operations and achieve compliance. The training will equip you on how to identify risks related to MHE in the workplace and apply steps to minimise these.
To successfully complete the course, you’ll be required to complete a theory test and a hazard perception test, giving you, and your employer, peace of mind that you understand what is required for safe lift truck operations. Find a course near you now.

Need more help?

RTITB accreditation can help in-house training teams to deliver materials handling equipment to an industry-leading standard. Our team of lift truck training and compliance experts helps our accredited RTITB Partners with responsive support and training and testing materials that help to reduce compliance costs.