The improving UK economy could bring an unwelcome surge in major fork lift truck accidents – unless companies ensure they provide adequate workforce training.
That will be the emphasis of the message delivered to delegates at this year’s National Fork Lift Safety Conference, from Mentor Training’s Stuart Taylor.
Taking the stage after Jane Willis and Andrew Wetters from the Health and Safety Executive, Stuart will explain how sudden economic shifts – up or down – often lead to a spike in accident rates.
"The connection between recession and accidents is clear," he explains. "In tough economic times struggling companies can be pressured to make cutbacks, and inevitably that leads to an increase in accidents.
"What’s less well known is that an upturn is dangerous too. While workloads increase, confidence takes time to return – there’s an understandable reluctance to expand teams, and invest in new equipment and skills.
"For workers, that can mean longer hours, at higher intensity, under more pressure – until, ultimately, mistakes are made."
Although fork lift truck accidents have fallen considerably in recent years, Stuart explains, there is no room for complacency. Lift trucks still account for a large proportion of all British workplace transport accidents, and hospitalise workers on a daily basis; a figure that could rise once again as the economy improves.
An area of particular importance is management and supervisor training; this could prove decisive in determining the safety impact of increasing throughput at materials handling sites.
Stuart says: "Managers promote and maintain a company’s safety standards. To do this they need the knowledge to spot when risks are being taken – and take action. That’s never more important than when the pressure’s on.
"Providing training to anyone who manages or supervises fork lift truck operations is vital in ensuring a company can protect its workers – and its business – from accidents.
"Of course, there are other good reasons, too. As I’m sure the HSE will explain, the latest version of the L117 Approved Code of Practice confirms that management safety training is compulsory. Combine that with the strong financial benefits of lower damage and improved efficiency, reputation and morale, and it’s a pretty compelling case."