An Introduction to Forklift Safety: UK Rules and Regulations

An Introduction to Forklift Safety: UK Rules and Regulations
25 April 2024 17 view(s) 9 min read
An Introduction to Forklift Safety: UK Rules and Regulations

Wherever machinery and off-road vehicles operate, there is the potential for employees or visitors to get hurt. Businesses using equipment such as forklift trucks on their premises or off-site must therefore take steps to manage risks to drivers, operators, and pedestrians to keep them safe. 

Primarily, we all want to ensure that nobody is injured or killed in a workplace accident but failure to meet forklift health and safety rules can also create significant business interruption, and accidents can result in costly damage to forklifts, warehouse structures and the goods being transported.

Effective safety and performance both start by sourcing forklifts, lifting equipment and industrial supplies from a reputable supplier like Kingfisher Direct. 

We are happy to share our expertise and experience in this area to ensure you can buy forklifts and the associated equipment that match your operational needs business aims, and safety standards.

Contact us for free advice, or simply read this guide for important information on what individuals and organisations need to consider when buying forklift trucks and operating them safely and productively. 

Click the links below for answers to these key questions.

Why is forklift safety important?

Who is responsible for following forklift safety rules?

What steps should a business take to ensure employee safety?

What safety features might a forklift truck come with?

Forklift safety: a checklist

Why is forklift safety important?

According to the UK Material Handling Association, on average there are five accidents involving forklift trucks every working day. Every incident has the potential to cause severe injury or even death, a breach of health and safety regulations, business interruption or a hit to your organisation’s reputation. 

To manage these risks, there are various health and safety rules and regulations that businesses and individuals must comply with when operating forklift trucks and other off-road vehicles. 

Employers have a general duty under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act) to provide information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

Who is responsible for following forklift safety rules? 

The forklift rules and regulations UK organisations and individuals must adhere to are clear on the fines and penalties for non-compliance. These are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Employees may also take civil action if injured at work, and, of course, staff can face disciplinary action if they are negligent in operating this potentially dangerous equipment.

This all increases the pressure on everyone to play their role in forklift safety. 

Anyone operating this equipment, or working in its vicinity, has a responsibility to engage fully with training and be vigilant in following safety rules and practices. This includes avoiding complacency and always observing traffic management and other safety signs.

Company decision-makers have a responsibility to provide regular and thorough training, and to put in place other safety measures outlined in this guide. They also need to monitor and measure whether forklift health and safety rules are being met consistently. 

Many organisations appoint specialists in health and safety, and they must put this heavy-duty equipment high on their list of priorities, including regular risk assessments to refresh protocols.

What steps should a business take to ensure employee safety? 

These are the fundamentals of operating forklift trucks safely (and productively) and meeting the goals in your forklift safety checklist.

Also, ensure that all your other lifting equipment is compliant and functioning well so that you don’t have to rely on forklifts for smaller tasks and loads.

Provide proper training for all staff, not just drivers

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 are very clear on this and compel employers to “ensure that all persons who use work equipment have received adequate training for purposes of health and safety, including training in the methods which may be adopted when using the work equipment, any risks which such use may entail and precautions to be taken”. 

This is wide-ranging and covers employees working near off-road vehicles and other equipment that represents a workplace risk.

Provide safety equipment

The type of forklift safety equipment required in modern warehouses and other workplaces depends on the layout and scale of your operations. However, among the forklift accessories to consider for proper off-road vehicle usage is well-engineered forklift extensions and truck safety mirrors. 

You could even make your forklift truck part of your site safety solutions by buying a forklift truck salt spreader that can manage risks for road vehicles on your premises.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for forklift truck safety includes hard hats, coveralls, reflective vests, safety gloves and heavy-duty boots.

Conduct regular safety inspections 

Part of the training for forklift truck drivers should be the checks carried out each time this equipment is used. It is also vital to schedule regular evaluations and maintenance tasks to keep this equipment safe and functional. If there are substantial mechanical issues and other concerns that can’t be rectified, sourcing new forklift trucks is an investment in your safety record and productivity. 

Keep in mind that your inspections should include the environment in which your equipment operates. Even the best forklifts create some vibrations, and even the best drivers make contact with warehouse structures. 

Create a safe working environment

This includes ensuring that your work area flooring is suitable for operating forklifts and is marked clearly as part of your traffic management system. 

Lighting can be crucial to safety in a warehouse or other workplace, especially when keeping pedestrians and off-road vehicles apart. Safety signage for workplace traffic management should be prominent, and checks should be made to ensure signs are not obscured or damaged.

Having warehouse impact protection products is also a way of boosting forklift safety management. These products are designed to provide awareness in areas where wheeled traffic regularly operates. They absorb high levels of impact, protecting walls, columns, exposed pipes, machinery, and racking. A number of these products can also be employed to separate vehicle and pedestrian routes.

Consistently enforce safe working practices

Training forklift truck operators – and employees who work in the vicinity of off-road vehicles and other equipment – needs to be reinforced with regular reminders. This includes the practical steps involved in forklift truck safety, such as not overloading, and equalising loads to use both forks effectively. Speed limits must be observed consistently, and operators should always keep their full attention on their tasks.

Also, regular reminders of best practice with different material handling equipment such as dollies can manage numerous safety risks in warehouses and other workplaces.

What safety features might a forklift truck come with?

We supply electric forklifts with safety features already built-in, but you need to ensure you buy from a supplier who offers trucks with the minimum required safety features as well as the extras.

To meet the forklift rules and regulations UK firms must adhere to, look for:

  • Seatbelts – It is a legal requirement for seatbelts in forklift trucks that may use public roads. Also, the HSE Operator Approved Code of Practice states that “where restraining systems are fitted they should be used”.
  • A horn – As the best forklift trucks are almost silent when running, a horn to warn of proximity is vital. 
  • Warning lights – These – along with a horn – are crucial for safe forklift truck operation. Lights at the front and rear alert pedestrians and other drivers to forklifts entering or exiting an aisle or doorway.
  • Cameras – While forklift truck mirrors are a cost-effective way to underpin safety in warehouses and other workplaces, having a rear-view camera fitted can make the driver’s decision-making even more assured when reversing.
  • Guidance lasers – Leading forklift truck models now include a boundary light system, which projects a clear safety barrier around the equipment. This is highly beneficial to keep high-pressure work areas safe.
  • Backing-up alarm – As with other safety equipment for forklifts, it is important to alert pedestrians and other drivers to the fact that you are reversing.
  • Telematics – Some high-performance forklift trucks now have telematics software built in. This is an excellent way to remotely manage this vital equipment and monitor maintenance and repair obligations seamlessly.
  • Blue lamps – These lights are a fundamental way to meet forklift health and safety rules, as the blue lamp on forklifts alerts pedestrians to the vehicle’s proximity or manoeuvres such as lifting its forks.

Sourcing an electric forklift truck with all these safety features and more could not be easier. At Kingfisher Direct, we are proud to be suppliers of various innovative loading equipment, including the High-Performance Lithium Electric Forklift (with 2.5/3.0/3.5T capacity).

This shows the enhanced safety management potential you benefit from when you invest in forklifts with the latest technology fitted. This includes a red halo boundary light system, blue lights to warn of manoeuvring, and telematics software that manages, monitors, and maintains your fleet of forklifts. 

Not only is this a great option for protecting your safety record and reputation, but an electric forklift truck also saves you time and money. For example, it offers a saving of approximately £3,000-£4,000 per year, per truck, when compared to diesel or gas forklifts. An added advantage of a zero-emissions forklift truck is that it meets your sustainability agenda.

Forklift safety: a checklist

As the penalties for not adhering to forklift safety rules are high – including injury, business interruption and loss of reputation – it is worth summarising a list of forklift operation safety rules and guidelines that could also apply to the best use of other material handling equipment.

  1. Ensure only trained employees operate forklifts

Regular evaluation of driver competence and confidence must be scheduled, and there should be pre-planned training of new drivers to ensure cover for holidays and other absences.

  1. Inspect the forklift before using it

Drivers must use a pre-operation forklift safety checklist to evaluate the equipment’s mechanical integrity and function before carrying out tasks.

  1. Use a forklift at the right speed for the conditions

Speed limits – central to traffic management in workplaces – must be adhered to and must be checked regularly to ensure they are still appropriate and well-signposted.

  1. Ensure you have full visibility at all times

Operators must take responsibility for checking they have sufficient light and space to carry out manoeuvres. Anyone placing racking and other potential obstructions must remain alert to the needs of forklift truck drivers.

  1. Wear appropriate clothing

High-vis vests and hard hats are required PPE for forklift truck drivers. Most drivers also wear steel-toed shoes to protect against any hazards such as falling boxes. Loose clothing needs to be avoided as it may get trapped in machinery.

  1. Remove distractions when operating a forklift

There should never be passengers on this equipment, and drivers must always have their attention fully on their task.

  1. Always follow the proper load technique

Keep to the load guidelines for the type of forklift truck, and other handling equipment, and always balance loads, making sure everything is secure before moving.

  1. Be mindful of other people

Pedestrian and vehicle management systems in warehouses are not foolproof. Therefore, drivers must be constantly alert to other employees or visitors who could stray into their path (front or back).

  1. Avoid abrupt stops

Careful observation of speed limits and material handling protocols adds to the seamless operation of forklifts, including coming to a measured and smooth stop.

  1. Always park at a designated spot

The way that a forklift truck is stored after use can also be a safety measure, as it needs to be placed where it does not represent a hazard to pedestrians or other vehicle operators.

What if I need more help with sourcing the right forklift for my needs?

Buying the right equipment for your handling needs, and then introducing robust forklift safety policies and procedures, can keep your employees and site visitors safe.

If you're unsure before making a purchase, Kingfisher Direct can also provide insights and suggestions on the best way to maximise your budget for forklift trucks and accessories, including ways to increase your warehouse performance as well as safety.  You can call 01777 858009, email or send us a message through our contact page

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