Safety advice you can trust

Safety advice you can trust

Director | Fork Lift Truck Association

Staying safe was a phrase we heard often in 2020. One year on from the start of the pandemic, I wonder whether there are lessons we have learnt about protecting ourselves and others that we can apply to operations today. After all, safety has always been essential in the materials handling industry. Forklift trucks are potentially some of the most dangerous equipment in your workplace, which is why promoting and enabling safety on site is at the heart of the FLTA.

But staying safe means following correct guidance, and it’s not always easy to identify what that is, or where to find it.

When the pandemic began, it quickly became apparent that all those involved in materials handling – from companies who supply and service the equipment right through to those who own and operate it – were in dire need of concise, authoritative and up-to-the-minute information, along with clear guidance and the tools to help them implement it.

The Fork Lift Truck Association responded with its Covid-19 Resource Centre, which is still available, still being constantly updated, and still free for all to access via the FLTA website.

Providing highly targeted and trustworthy advice is something that only a fit-for-purpose trade association can deliver. Uncluttered by political considerations, a good trade association understands the needs and mindset of its various communities; the pressures and issues they face, and the answers they need to function safely and efficiently, especially in a crisis. 

Only a trade association has the capability to be both specific and prescriptive in its guidance: “do this, and definitely don’t do that!” At any time, it should be a trusted source of relevant information, sound advice and practical tips, simply because it brings a level of awareness and industry-specific expertise that no other body can hope to match.

For this reason, companies are urged to choose a supplier whose membership of an association such as the FLTA makes them such a highly informed and trusted partner.

Every FLTA member must successfully undergo a 100-point site audit to ensure they work to the highest standards. They must also abide by a Code of Practice that holds them accountable.

FLTA members benefit from the latest technical guidance and legislation updates, and they have access to a wealth of safety resources. This enables them to act as fixed, reliable points of reference, and equips them with the knowledge to help you navigate changing circumstances.

Whether you are looking for equipment, services or advice, your local FLTA member can point you in the right direction and will give you information you can trust.  

The Safe User Group

As well as working with trusted suppliers, it can also be helpful to join a user-group yourself if you own or operate materials handling equipment.

The FLTA’s Safe User Group (SUG) was created to provide companies with the tailored information and resources they need to stay up to date with best practice.

For example, SUG members receive:

• Access to expert advice helplines on health and safety, legal and tax matters

• Case studies of companies who have successfully implemented safety measures

• Step-by-step safety programmes

• Health and safety newsletters

• Technical bulletins

SUG members agree to a code of practice to ensure they meet the highest standards in planning, operations, training, forklift maintenance and supervision. 

It demonstrates a commitment to safety, as the membership certificate and logo will show staff, customers and inspectors you mean business.

There is also a SUG Charter designed to be placed in view on site. The charter outlines what the company will agree to do, as well as what staff are expected to do in return, so that everyone can work together to create a safer site.

For example, the charter states that the company will plan all lifting operations in advance, with risk assessments wherever necessary. And the operator/staff member is expected to not carry out unauthorised or unplanned lifting tasks. 

The company may also minimise hazards by providing signage, controlling speed and keeping trucks and pedestrians apart. In turn, staff should obey the agreed traffic flows, speed limits, instructions and signs that have been put in place to protect them.

Creating a safety culture is no mean feat. It takes time and dedication, and SUG membership can support you in engaging everyone on site and making effective changes in the workplace. 

Safety lies in cooperation

Working safely always requires an element of cooperation. At the first level, cooperation is required from on-site staff when it comes to following best practice and safe systems of work. On a larger scale, cooperation can mean working with your suppliers to ensure you are taking their advice on board, while checking that they, in turn, are cooperating with a relevant trade association.

This cooperation is possible. We saw how well everyone pulled together in the pandemic, with so many organisations working together to get information out quickly to our industry. This collaborative approach served the materials handling community well and I believe it will continue to do so in the future.

With this in mind, perhaps you are now considering the next actions to take. Whether you join an association, or decide to work with a trade body member, you will be making a commitment to partner with others, share knowledge, and be open to change, all with the benefit of enhancing your operations and improving on-site safety. 

If you are already a member of a trade body, please make the most of it. Explore all it has to offer – you may be surprised at what’s available to help your business and in some cases save you money. It is also helpful to offer suggestions on what more could be done to help you. That, after all, is the primary function of trade associations like the FLTA.

Whatever you do, the important thing to remember is that support is always available, and improvements are always achievable. We faced so much change in 2020 that we are now conditioned to adapt quicker. With any luck, we can take positive steps this year, all while (once again) staying safe.

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Tim Waples is a Director of the FLTA and, as of January 1st 2021, is also the Chief Executive of the UK Material Handling Association. The FLTA is one of the founder organisations of UKMHA, alongside BITA and CFTS.