Forklift Operators often Mum on Unsafe Conditions

Research carried out by Grahame Robb Associates Ltd., a U.K. based management consulting firm, in conjunction with the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) of the U.K., suggests that around 75 per cent of employees in the material handling sector believe there are “accidents waiting to happen” at work.

FLTA chief executive, David Ellison, said: “The ugly secret behind most fork lift truck accidents is that someone is aware of the threat well in advance, but is either unwilling or feels unable to speak up.”

The study asked nearly 250 people from a dozen different companies about the safety practices in their workplace. Respondents included fork lift drivers, frontline workers, management, and safety officers.

Richard Close, CEO of Briggs Equipment, a U.K.-based Yale Equipment distributor, commented: "Everybody is responsible for health and safety but too often there is a perception of blame attached to reporting an incident or worse, apathy. The culture of a business makes a big impact on whether operators actively look to report and resolve health and safety issues or simply just ignore them."

Briggs published five tips to help encourage operators to report problems:

1. Make it easy to report an issue - Operators should already know to take urgent matters to their line manager. But companies should make sure there is one central person who coordinates health and safety and inform operators of the way they should report matters.

2. Make it anonymous - Having a simple printed card and a drop box is a quick and easy way for staff to voice concerns anonymously while also providing a documentation trail for company records.

3. Make it worthwhile - A small reward, a voucher or a free lunch for the month/quarter is something that may just tip the balance between whether operators report a health and safety issue or not.

4. Make it happen - If operators are reporting issues and see nothing happening, they will stop bothering to report them. When an issue is reported, declare it and put a timescale on it. When it has been investigated, share the results. Whether the status quo remains or if changes need to happen, explain why.

5. Thank operators - This is the most simple and effective way of ensuring that they will keep doing the right thing. If your company has an internal newsletter, consider a section highlighting the good work. If people see their name in print it raises their self-esteem, and possibly their profile among their peers to help encourage others. In a smaller company, a section of a notice board could do the same thing just as effectively.

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