An employee of a freight and logistics company suffered multiple fractures to his foot when a fork lift truck (FLT) was driven over it. What measures should his employer have implemented to prevent it?
Formalise your plans
The accident happened in January 2018 when steel coils were being unloaded and stacked in a shed at a site operated by Simec Ports (UK) Ltd (S) (formerly known as Cargo Services (UK) Ltd). The worker was assisting in the operation as a pedestrian when the 15-tonne fork lift truck (FLT) drove over his foot, causing multiple fractures.
Investigating officers from the HSE concluded that there was inadequate control of workplace transport risks on the site and that this stemmed from the failure to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. S was found guilty of breaching s.2(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £200,000, plus costs of £8,732.
Note. It’s quite unsurprising that the HSE found that the risks of workplace transport were uncontrolled: the serious accident in itself gave clear evidence of a serious breach of duty. The requirements for separating FLT movements from pedestrians are very strict.
Keep pedestrians away
When carrying out operations with FLTs it will often appear to be more efficient to have someone on foot working to assist the driver with loading and unloading, securing loads, etc. However, whilst it’s tempting to rely on good awareness of pedestrians and drivers in order to avoid accidents, in practice it’s asking for trouble. Inevitably when staff are tired or distracted, accidents will happen.
Tip. Activities you currently carry out with close proximity between pedestrians and FLTs need a rethink. Consider whether you can reorganise. For example, if staff currently stack a load on a pallet presented to them on the forks, you could strap or wrap the load instead.
Tip. Impose a general rule that FLTs and pedestrians should stay two metres apart when the driver is at the wheel. This improves the odds of avoiding an accident, but it’s not enough on its own.
To comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 you must segregate pedestrians and moving vehicles. The ideal situation is to have separate areas of operation.
Tip. Use measures such as barriers, secure doors, and designated pedestrian routes to physically separate the two. Set out your rules and display signs to reinforce your requirements.
Tip. Use temporary barriers and cones to mark aisles where FLTs are not permitted. This is useful when order picking or cleaning is taking place in an aisle. If you do this ensure that your barriers or cones are large and brightly coloured so that drivers can’t miss them.
Tip. As well as having arrangements in place to physically distance vehicles and pedestrians, basic control measures must be applied, e.g. high visibility vests, keeping walkways unobstructed, speed control, safety shoes and ensuring good visibility.
It is illegal to allow staff to work in close proximity to moving vehicles. Where workers need to load or unload a pallet, the work carried out on foot should take place separately from the FLT activity. Put in place designated pedestrian and vehicle routes and use physical means of protection such as permanent or temporary barriers.