Fatal accident prompts call for forklift inspections

The UK Material Handling Association (UKMHA), the trade body representing all aspects of the UK’s material handling industry, has highlighted the importance of proper forklift maintenance and safety procedures following a fatal industrial accident.

The warning comes after the Health & Safety Executive successfully prosecuted the owners of a fencing business following an accident at their premises in which an employee died after being crushed by falling timber.

The accident occurred at PA Fencing Ltd in Bristol in 2017. The deceased, Roderick McKenzie Hopes, was working in a yard at the company’s premises when a telehandler being used to move timber exceeded its rated capacity and tipped over. In doing so, the truck toppled onto stacked timber which fell onto Mr Hopes resulting in his death.

North Somerset Magistrates Court was told that an investigation by HSE inspectors had found the telehandler was faulty and that the safety device to ensure lift heights were not exceeded was inoperative and that maintenance had failed to identify this. In addition, the investigation found that the truck operator had not received full training in how to use the truck and that the machine was regularly used to lift unsafe loads.

The HSE said the yard supervisor did not know the machine’s safe limits and that the yard had not been laid out to allow the safe stacking of the timber.

The court was told the investigation also found that PA Fencing Ltd shared the telehandler with David Crossman, who owns a neighbouring farm and rents the yard to PA Fencing Ltd. Neither PA Fencing Ltd nor Mr Crossman had ensured the machine was properly maintained nor that it was independently thoroughly examined.

David Goss, Technical Director, UKMHA, said: “This sad case has highlighted a catalogue of errors that may have been avoided had the legally-required Thorough Examination been carried out.”

The importance of Thorough Examination by an accredited provider has received a strong focus this year, being the theme of National Forklift Safety Day. Previous campaigns have also identified the importance of safely segregating workers from material handling equipment and the proper training of lift truck operators.

The 2021 campaign coincided with the publication of an updated BITA Guidance Note GN28, the industry guideline on Thorough Examination and Safety Inspection of Industrial Lift Trucks. This translates the general provisions of LOLER, or more correctly, The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, and PUWER, that is, The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, into specific requirements for forklift trucks.

Goss said: “A Thorough Examination is the name given to the mandatory inspection required by law to ensure the lifting equipment on a truck is in safe working order. It is roughly equivalent to the MOT for cars.

“Generally, lifting equipment must receive a Thorough Examination at least once a year. However, more frequent examinations could be required depending on the application.”

He said a comprehensive Thorough Examination and Safety Inspection in accordance with GN28, would establish that a truck could continue to be operated safely and without injury to persons provided that the truck was operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

It will verify that the truck is operating as it should when lifting and travelling, identify any defects or weaknesses which could compromise the safe use of the truck and specify the timescales within which identified defects or weaknesses need to be rectified.

“In addition, the examiner will check that all safety devices are functioning correctly, that warning notices are correctly fixed and legible; and where necessary, specify any limitations on the use of a truck,” added Goss.

The CFTS mark awarded on completion of a successful Thorough Examination by an accredited competent person, demonstrates that a truck has been examined carefully, and that key components such as brakes and steering have been thoroughly checked, along with the lifting mechanism.

“The purpose of Thorough Examination, which is required by law, is to prevent exactly this type of tragedy,” concluded Goss.

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