A crucial element of safe forklift truck operation is conducting proper pre-use inspections. According to the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE), over 18% of lift truck incidents occur as a result of mechanical failure, which could be avoided through correct completion of a pre-use inspection. Also, recent data collected by RTITB showed that 65% of forklift operators tested didn’t know how to conduct the driving and braking pre-use check correctly, two vital elements where mechanical failures should be spotted. But what is a proper pre-use inspection? And as a manager or supervisor of the warehouse operations, what do you need your employees to do?
Here are seven key considerations for you to look out for when tackling this crucial issue.
1. Keep it simple
Pre-use inspections exist to identify the small problems and stop them becoming bigger problems. Your forklift drivers need to know that they are not expected to be forklift truck engineers, so should simply be checking the general working parts of the truck for signs of damage or wear. This allows any potential issues to be reported so that they can be dealt with by an expert, and helps prevent trucks from becoming unsafe or needing to be removed from service completely.
2. Check every time
Even if a lift truck has been checked by another operator that day, a forklift inspection should still be carried out when the next driver wants to use the forklift. Something could have happened to the truck to damage it or make it unsafe while it has been in use. Unless it is checked every time, this will be missed. Companies should assess how frequently checks must take place and ensure that operators know that it is their responsibility to complete them.
3. Understand the law
Forklift operators may not realise that by failing to carry out a pre-use forkflit inspection they may be breaking the law by failing in their duty of care to themselves and to others. Even if the correct inspections are taking place, companies also need to remember to properly record the checks that take place. Without this, they may not be covered in the event of an incident. A thorough and professional pre-use check sheet will ensure that records are compliant. The RTITB Pre-Use Inspection Sheet allows operators to record whether the item they are checking is ok or if there is a defect to report. If there is, the operator must detail the information of the defect in the text box provided.
4. Be specific
Not every truck is the same and companies with several different types of truck may be tempted to use a generic pre-use forklift inspection check sheet for all vehicles. However, to ensure safety, a specific pre-use sheet should be used for every type of truck and cover all the major parts that should be checked. For example, a forklift operator using a diesel truck will need to check a different starting procedure than those using an electric counterbalance truck.
5. Manage and supervise
It is vitally important that employers ensure that pre-use checks are carried out correctly. In a recent RTITB test we found that a large percentage of operators didn’t know how to conduct certain checks. Supervisors and managers need to understand pre-use checks themselves in order to assess whether the correct procedures are being followed.
6. Provide training
Although pre-use inspections are covered in forklift operator training, a recent RTITB test showed that this is the area in which drivers are performing most poorly (compared to efficiency or practical driving skills, for example). Almost two-thirds of those tested did not know how to conduct the driving and braking check correctly, 49% did not know how to check the operators seat properly and 48% were unaware how to suitably check the mast. Employers should offer suitable training to ensure operators have these essential skills. All components checked within the pre-use inspection are equally vital for the safety of both your operators and your operations.
7. Stay safe
Sometimes with so much to consider, operators can forget fundamental safety principles when conducting a pre-use inspection, like not operating the hydraulic controls from outside the cab, not standing under the forks while checking the lifting components or not wearing personal protective equipment. Operators should ensure they remember their basic skills and operate safely, even when doing a pre-use check.
There are a number of benefits of pre-use inspections, such as reducing the cost of truck ownership and contract penalties, increasing uptime and improving battery life. However, the most important role of these checks is to help to prevent incidents and injuries. To improve safety and reduce risk, employers should take steps to ensure that inspections are not overlooked and that operators are trained and competent to inspect the equipment.