Forklift accidents were on the rise again in 2010/2011, as latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report a 4 per cent increase, which also affects the level of accident compensation claims, following a two-year reduction in serious injuries.
Over the last twenty-four months, it was variously reported that forklift accidents were in reverse. Both the HSA and the Forklift Truck Association (FLTA) are now concerned that the upward movement could again see figures of some 8,000 reportable incidents i.e. around 160 per week, and some 400 serious personal injuries per year.
Accidents using forklifts have never been out of the news. Just in the first week of September, an engineering firm based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, was found to have failed to carry out a proper risk assessment and to finding an alternative transport method, which could have prevented an incident in 2011 when an employee’s hand became trapped in a forklift truck, partially severing three fingers.
The accident occurred when the employee and one other stood on top of a three metre-wide metal sheet to help keep it stable on the forklift supports but the hand became trapped as the sheet was lowered. The firm pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and was fined over £11,100, including costs.
Accident claims for forklift truck injuries can be varied. Because it is often assumed that the vehicle is easy to operate, companies can fail to ensure sufficient training has been provided. Negligence or oversight not only leads directly to accidents, such as a lack of experience with working in limited space or basic mechanical failure, but also the improper use of the forklift can cause mechanical faults to develop.
According to The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a duty to their employees to provide a safe-working environment in a ‘reasonably practicable’ manner, ensure that the workers handle and transport objects in a safe way and arrange necessary staff training.
In addition, Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 stipulate that all company employees who lift goods should be properly trained to prevent accidents and the employer is obliged to properly check all equipment and machinery for faulty operation.