For the past two years, the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) has been successfully promoting the cause of UK National Forklift Safety Day, an annual June event that each year focuses on raising awareness of safe working practices for all users of material handling equipment and the importance of proper operator training.
National Forklift Safety Day began as a US initiative seven years ago, organised by the Industrial Truck Association (ITA). The ethos has been adopted by BITA, which now manages the event in the UK. The association works closely with its members, together with supporting industry associations and other stakeholders to spread key safety messages across the entire material handling industry.
The inaugural UK event in 2019 focused on the theme that management is responsible for ensuring operator restraints, such as seat belts, are always used when fitted. The primary purpose of operator restraints on a forklift truck is to keep the operator within the protective structure of the truck in the event of a tip-over. It prevents the operator from sliding out of, or attempting to jump away from, the cab and being crushed between the framework and the ground. Statistics prove that seat belts save lives and management responsibility extends beyond provision of equipment and training, and includes enforcing the use of safety equipment.
The initial campaign was well received by the industry and National Forklift Safety Day has now become a fixture on the UK material handling calendar. The key message for 2020 is that management is responsible for segregating pedestrians from material handling equipment. This is best achieved by physical barriers, but the importance of traffic planning, route marking and effective information delivery is also emphasised.
Effective segregation of workplace transport is a legal obligation for businesses. Most fatalities and serious injuries caused by impact with pedestrians are wholly avoidable by traffic route demarcation, physical barriers and other simple measures.
BITA would have supported the 2020 campaign with a physical event, just as it did in 2019, however, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown of the UK put paid to this. Unphased, BITA took the decision to deliver NFSD 2020 digitally. A wealth of important safety information was created especially for the day, including the development of a new, dedicated website – www.nationalforkliftsafetyday.co.uk.
David Goss, BITA Technical Manager, said: “The importance of safety within the material handling sector has been thrown into sharp focus this year in a way that could not have been imagined prior to the pandemic. With the logistics industry working at full capacity to keep up with the supply demands from the essential services, so the need to ensure the safety of every worker in the sector has never been more important.
“BITA is keen that the important safety messages promoted by National Forklift Safety Day reach as wide an audience as possible, which is why we took the decision to make all the information on the new website available without charge.
“Anyone with an interest in improving safety standards within the material handling industry should visit the website and read the information available. They will also be able to download the videos and media pack so they can promote the message of National Forklift Safety Day to their customers and suppliers, as well as their fellow employees.”
Moving forward, the portal will become the main focus of the campaign and features a wealth of freely available information related to the safety theme for every year of the event; for 2020 this being the importance of safely segregating pedestrians and MHE in the workplace. The website is also hosting a series of special videos which were specially created for the campaign, each one encapsulating a key theme.
Other material created included a campaign eBook – Segregating People from Materials Handling Equipment, poster, social media imagery, email banners, campaign logo and a simple guide on how to get the best out of National Forklift Safety Day. These continue to be available as a downloadable media pack.
The initiative proved to be a big success with strong levels of engagement from across the entire material handling sector, vindicating the decision to take the campaign digital.
“We had been concerned that the message of National Forklift Safety Day might be lost in everything that was going on due to the pandemic. However, the campaign proved to be so effective that levels of interaction were far higher than expected and I am very grateful to the industry for its support,” added Mr Goss.
One of fundamental principles of National Forklift Safety Day is the importance of good training – both for truck drivers and management, especially with regard to health and safety. Only professionally trained workers should ever be allowed to operate a fork lift, while management should always be aware of their legal responsibilities as failure to comply with safety requirements can be severe.
BITA’s analysis of recent RIDDOR reports shows that over a three-year period from 2016, 43% of incidents reported to involve a forklift truck were impacts with a third person. Of these, around 65% were pedestrians engaged in activities unrelated to the immediate truck operation, 20% were co-workers/supervisors and 15% delivery drivers watching or assisting with loading/unloading their vehicle.
Truck manufacturers continue to develop outstanding safety and efficiency enhancements for their product. However, these machines are only as safe as the operators that use them, therefore professional training must be adopted to ensure the safety of all users as well as other personnel in the workplace.
The benefits of such an approach are many, not least of which is proper training also minimises any insurance risk in the event of an accident.
National Forklift Safety Day will return in June 2021 and for more information on this and other aspects of the campaign, people should visit www.nationalforkliftsafetyday.co.uk
For more information on BITA and the work in conducts, visit www.bita.org.uk