Keeping Your Forklift Operations Safe Risk Management & Advice

Keeping Your Forklift Operations Safe

Top Tips from Cowens Risk Solutions
According to the latest research from RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences), around 1,300 workers are seriously injured every year following accidents that involve forklift trucks; that’s around five every working day.
The British Industrial Truck Association has found that 75% of incidents involving a person actually impact a pedestrian or member of the public with injuries including de-gloving, crushing, long bone fractures, and amputations. It was also found that workers over the age of 45 and HGV drivers waiting for lorries to be loaded or unloaded are at the highest risk. These are worrying figures which could result in businesses losing thousands to claims against them.

Although many operations using forklift trucks are carried out within a safe distance, many areas cannot be cordoned off, increasing the risk of third-party injury. So, what can companies do to reduce this risk of accidents?

Here, our Risk Advisor, Simon Fabian, explains the HSE guidelines and latest industry advice on how to stay safe around this machinery.

Remember every task is different

Although many businesses which use forklifts operate using a fixed-distance rule, not every job will be the same or carry the same risks. The distance agreed may be large enough for some work-sites but too close to other people for others. In cases like this, it is important to carry out individual risk assessments with your staff on each job in hand. Communication is key, so ensure every worker is clued up on the Safe Systems of Work before an operation begins.

General health and safety tips

As well as specific forklift rules, it is important to remember that your general health and safety procedures must be up to scratch to make a difference. Safety and Health Practitioner suggests the following measures to ensure worksite safety:

Traffic management: Introduce measures such as one-way systems to reduce the risk of collisions.

Work rotas: Ensure forklift tasks and work with the pedestrians are not being carried out at the same time in the same area.

Clear communication: All workers should be alert and aware to communicate any dangers within the work area.

Site inductions: These should be carried out for every member of staff on every new site in order to familiarise drivers with health and safety procedures, layout and size of the site and access routes.

Personal protection equipment: This should be worn at all times to protect against injury as much as possible.

Safe working procedures: Every worker should be familiar with these when entering every worksite. For forklift work, these should include position of the delivery driver whilst operating the machine, key control during loading/unloading and the establishment of safe operating distances.

Clear signage: A business owner must do everything they can do enforce the points stated above. Clear signs (in all appropriate languages) will reiterate the rules and procedures put in place.

Lost loads

One of the most common causes of injury which has been highlighted in recent news is that of drivers and people who work alongside forklifts, who are hit by falling material when a forklift loses its load. Whilst trying to steady a load or move out of the way of falling debris, many people sustain crush injuries. For this reason, it is essential that a safe distance is kept between delivery drivers, bystanders and forklifts when they are in operation. Although lost loads may result in damage to stock or equipment and financial losses, this is, of course, a better alternative to the terrible consequences of an accident involving staff or pedestrians.

Keeping a safe distance

In order to keep a safe distance from the public, businesses should consider the width of the load, picking height, the load structure and driver distraction as all extremely important factors when creating your risk assessment and Safe System of Work for each project. How wide would the effect be should the load fall? Would the presence of the public at a certain distance distract the driver? All of these factors must be taken into consideration.

Communication is key with staff, but it also essential with visitors to the site and surrounding area; contractors, other drivers and members of the public. The ‘show your hand’ system – where the forklift driver signals to the pedestrian to stop if they come too close, then turns off the engine if they do not stop, is one of the most simple and effective ways of avoiding accidents.

As a business owner or site manager, the safety of your workers and the public is ultimately your responsibility, and failure to implement some of these important systems may result in HSE crackdown on your operations – a fine or even a jail sentence. By implementing the right information, systems, training and communication across your sites which use forklifts, you could make a huge difference in protecting people from serious injury or even worse. For more information on forklift safety visit HSE website here: or to find out more about our risk solutions and health and safety advice for your business, contact us today on


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