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Managing workplace transport risk

HSE to introduce a ‘Route Map’

The Health and Safety Executive has been setting out the aims and objectives of its forthcoming ‘Route Map’ for managing workplace transport risk. Still under development, consultation and assessment, the initiative is due to be launched in March 2007 and has been welcomed by the Fork Lift Truck Association as a major contribution to improving safety.

A few key statistics from the HSE emphasise the need for guidance to employers on this issue:

• 3 million employees work with or near vehicles as a regular part of their normal job.

• 5,427 workplace transport injuries to workers were reported in 2004/05. This included 68 fatalities.

• In 2004/05 workplace transport injuries accounted for 6% of all major injuries reported and 31% of all fatalities.

• Fork lift trucks account for 24% of vehicle-related accidents in the workplace.

While it is clear that legislation and regulation have a large part to play in making the workplace safer, the HSE is conscious of the volume and complexity of existing legislation and says it is not its intention to introduce more. Rather it wants to help employers to more easily understand the existing rules and guidance and hence help them to better manage the risks. This is what the Route Map is all about.

It will not be prescriptive, the HSE stresses. It will analyse information and draw attention to risks; it will set out problems and possible solutions; importantly, it will make knowing the law simpler.

The Route Map will aim to provide standards or benchmarks in the following key areas:

Site layout and design
Vehicle selection and maintenance
Competence
Fitness to drive/operate
Visiting and agency drivers/operators
Management and risk assessment
Communication.

These details of the Route Map were presented by Colin Chatten, a Senior Policy Adviser from the HSE’s Workplace Transport Team, at the Fork Lift Truck Association Safety Conference in September.

PHOTO: At this year’s FLTA Safety Conference, Dr Will Murray of Interactive Driving Systems reinforced the HSE’s message on workplace transport risk – reminding delegates of their obligations as managers.
“Next time you blame an operator for poor performance, remember who employed him or her, remember who determines the level of training provided and remember who decides what equipment to purchase.”

Safety Conference 2006

Two other key speakers at the conference reinforced the message, reminding delegates of their obligations as managers. It was stressed that as managers they had a range of responsibilities and that they should be accountable for the decisions they made.

Ciaran McMenamin, Legal and Business Risk Manager of Finning (UK) Ltd, brought the consequences of failing to pay proper regard to management responsibilities into sharp focus. He provided a clear and detailed review of ‘Corporate Accountability’ and its possible impact on a ‘guilty’ company.

Ciaran started by outlining the current legislation which, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, could result in serious penalties. These ranged from fines of up to £5,000 for individuals, or up to £20,000 for companies, from a Magistrates Court to unlimited fines and up to two years in prison from a High Court. He then explained that although these provisions had been used against smaller companies, it had proved difficult in larger companies to hold a specific person to account. This would soon change.

He fully expected the new Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill 2006 to become law. In essence this states:

“A Company is guilty of corporate manslaughter, or corporate homicide in Scotland, if the way in which any of its activities are managed or organised by senior managers a) causes a person’s death, and b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the Company to the deceased.

Penalties under the new legislation would include unlimited fines on the guilty company and a Remedial Order against the Company, but there would be no personal liability. Ciaran stressed that the stigma on the company, having been convicted of corporate manslaughter, would probably, in reality, be the most significant factor.

This extremely informative session was brought to a close through an example relating directly to the materials handling industry. The scene was set where a hired fork lift truck was parked on a slope and, having been left unattended, rolled down the hill and crushed a lorry driver to death. It was shown how and why both the user company and the fork lift truck supplier may be investigated under the provisions of the new legislation.

Dr Will Murray of Interactive Driving Systems issued the following challenge to delegates:

“Next time you blame an operator for poor performance, remember who employed him or her, remember who determines the level of training provided and remember who decides what equipment to purchase.”

Pulling no punches, he made it very clear who he thought was responsible for hiring poor operators, for their inadequate training, and for providing them with appropriate equipment for the tasks they were expected to perform –
“The Management”. He went on to explain that this didn’t mean that he thought all management were rubbish, but that when managers complained about poor performance they should reflect on their own responsibilities.

Doctor Murray had spoken at the 2005 FLTA Safety Conference, when he first introduced the concept of the ‘Virtual Fork Lift Truck’. This exciting project was aimed at transferring the experience gained on a suite of computer programmes designed for lorries, vans and cars into the world of the fork lift truck. These programmes were designed to assist managers in the vital tasks of assessing and monitoring fork lift truck operators. They would help identify ‘high risk’ operators and recommend remedial interventions. This would help managers focus their training resources on where they were needed most.

Much work had been completed since the previous conference and all delegates at the 2006 event had been able to use and evaluate the resulting trial programmes in advance of the conference. They had been provided with access pins for themselves and up to four of their operators. Will Murray used most of his session to go live online to the project site and bring up the results of the delegates’ own input. Using the dedicated Management Information System he showed just how easy it was to identify operators at risk, the areas of concern and the sort of action that may be required. It was clear from the enthusiasm of delegates that this was a project that should be taken further.

Other conference sessions

Not all of the conference was about management. In a session entitled ‘The Smart Approach to Safety’, John Mills of Davis Derby Ltd explained the benefits of using smart card technology for access control to fork lift trucks and other equipment. He described how a number of different accidents could have been avoided if the trucks concerned had been fitted with access control. Properly used, the card would ensure that only authorised operators could use specific items of equipment.

Whilst accident avoidance was a key benefit of the system, there were other benefits. The card could incorporate linkage to a shock sensor. This could be used to monitor the driving styles of operators and in particular to identify when a truck had been involved in a major incident. A feature that would report idle time was designed to help avoid the misuse of trucks by unauthorised personnel, but it was clear that this would also have potential benefits for productivity.

The overloading of trucks is an obvious safety hazard. Jonathan Harris from Hawkley Timotex Limited explained why it may be important to monitor the weight of loads, and how this could be done. This could be a problem when a variety of loads were being handled and their mass may not be clearly marked. It might also be important if the mass of individual loads needed to be recorded for charging purposes.

Jonathan explained how a strain gauge worked. He then discussed how Load Moment Indication could be fitted into a truck as part of the manufacturing process. For existing fork lift trucks either Oil Pressure Weigh Scales or Load Cell Weigh Scales could be fitted. The benefits and disadvantages of all three systems were described. He concluded by confirming that there was growing interest in all of these systems and the benefits they could provide.

Safety Solutions

A new focus for this conference had been “Safety Solutions”. These were a series of short presentations in which the companies nominated for the 2006 Fork Lift Truck Association Awards for Excellence Safety Award described the contribution that their products had made to safety.

Safety Solution 1. Richard Hunt from STILL Materials Handling Limited provided an overview of battery changing facilities available in the industry. The chassis of the RX20 range had been designed to allow straightforward side changing. The design had also facilitated a stronger overhead guard, better visibility and a fume-free cab.

Safety Solution 2. Alex Nelson of RTITB Limited described and demonstrated their “3rd Level – Lift Truck Training and Assessment Software”. The impressive animations showed just how realistic the programmes could be. Suitable for most PCs, this low cost package brings to life a number of important training scenarios for reach truck operators.

Safety Solution 3. The conference was honoured to be addressed by Doctor Keunbae Park, the Managing Director for Industrial Vehicle Research and Design from Doosan Infracore Limited. He delivered a detailed paper on the design and benefits of the Active Safety System fitted to the Doosan range of electric forklifts. The system automatically reduces truck speed during cornering, resulting in better and safer manoeuvrability.

Safety Solution 4. Terry Foreman, General Manager of Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks UK, described the Integrated Presence System fitted to the FBNT/FBN counterbalance electric trucks. This consists of a seat switch that prevents all fork movement and truck travel (unless the driver is securely seated), a warning light to remind the operator to fasten his/her belt and an alarm that sounds if the operator leaves the seat without applying the parking brake.

Safety Solution 5. Russell Barnard and Steve Floodgate of S G World introduced delegates to their Safe-truck system. This was a simple process of self-carbonated daily checks forms. When used with a display paddle fixed to the truck they provided a clear indication of whether or not the truck was safe to use, together with a separate record for maintenance or administrative purposes.

The conference was sponsored by STILL Materials Handling Ltd and Materials Handling News. The next conference has already been scheduled for Thursday 27th September 2007. It will take place once again at the Warwick University Arts Centre, a popular venue with a significant number of regular delegates.

For further details visit www.fork-truck.org.uk, email mail@fork-truck.org.uk or call 01256 381 441.

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