A series of new regulations could spell the end for electric forklift trucks, as we know them, according to an industry health and safety specialist.
Dr Terry Ritter, head of safety, health and environment at Calor, the UK's leading supplier of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) believes that the new Batteries Directive along with additional health and safety at work measures all add to the case for LPG.
Calor is a principal player in the materials handling sector, with all the major forklift truck manufacturers offering LPG options in their product ranges. Dr Ritter believes that new regulations that affect businesses throughout the UK could have a direct impact on firms that use forklift trucks powered by electricity and diesel.
The new Batteries Directive is the first of these regulations. The directive was published in the Official EU Journal on 26 September 2006 and the UK now has a deadline of 26 September 2008 to transpose the provisions into national law.
The directive means that the final disposal of automotive and industrial batteries into landfill and incineration will be prohibited, with all industrial and automotive batteries requiring recycling. Special collection schemes are to be established for the return of used portable batteries.
Dr Ritter believes that end users may pay the price if they use equipment powered by batteries, such as electric forklift trucks: “The collection schemes will more than likely be financed by producers, with distributors required to also take back batteries. However, although the collection services will be free to the end user, they should not rule out the possibility that the price of batteries will increase to fund these new collections – a cost that may well be passed on to the end user.
“In addition to disposal costs, the Directive also seeks to improve the environmental performance of batteries, with producers being restricted on the materials they can use to make batteries. Again, end users may find themselves paying the price of a change in materials, which all adds to the whole life cost of your truck.”
New directives aside, employers also have a duty of care to their employees, one of which is to ensure good air quality while at work.
Dr Ritter says that all employers should be carrying out regular risk assessments as part of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and COSHH – Controlof Substances Hazardous to Health – to ensure that their employees' health is not being put at risk from occupational exposure including from the emissions of equipment such as forklift trucks.
“The Health & Safety at Work Act places a general duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees,” says Dr Ritter. “Specifically, COSHH recognises that using chemicals or other hazardous substances at work can put people's health at risk. The law requires employers to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health.”
One way that employers may improve air quality is through the use of LPG forklift trucks that deliver a number of benefits compared to diesel, principally based on reduced emissions, which, when a three way catalytic converter is fitted, allows forklift trucks to operate in sensitive areas. For example, LPG achieves a 95 per cent reduction in NOx emissions compared to diesel. As a high octane, cleaner burning fuel, LPG's use also results in less carbon build up on engines, less oil contamination and less overall engine wear.
“An LPG truck fitted with a three-way catalytic converter and closed loop engine control system monitors and adjusts its fuel to air mixture 1,000 times a second to give an optimum burn,” says Dr Ritter. “The latest technical developments are enabling LPG forklift trucks to be used in areas that were previously the domain of electric forklift trucks, such as food manufacturing,” he adds.
“Naturally an IC engine won't be used in a food preparation environment, but there's no reason why a properly fitted LPG forklift truck shouldn't operate in a primary packaged food area.”
One final area that Dr Ritter believes employers should be mindful of is fuel storage, particularly in the case of diesel. The latest oil regulations that came into force in September 2005 require any company storing more than 200 litres of oil or diesel on commercial, industrial or institutional premises to
comply with the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations.
“Many organisations have now taken these regulations on board, but what employers may not realise is that if they have an oil spill, the company is responsible for the clean up of oil and some of the oil may penetrate that go deep into the ground,” says Dr
Ritter. “Therefore, even if many years down the line the company has moved to new premises, if contamination is discovered either in the land or nearby rivers and it is deemed the result of the original oil spill, the company is still responsible even though they have moved on.
“Calor LPG offers a cleaner burning alternative that eliminates the risks associated with fuel spillage. Unlike oil tanks, LPG bulk tanks usually remain the responsibility of the LPG supplier and Calor's bulk storage tanks are subject to regularly inspections and maintenance backed by a 24 hour emergency service, giving you peace of mind.”
Concluding, Dr Ritter says: “Employers are increasingly facing more regulations from Europe. One simple way for forklift truck users to eliminate some of the burdens and free up more of their time, would be to switch to LPG.”
Issued on behalf of Calor by Connect PR, Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1HT. Telephone: 01902 714957. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org