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Only accredited Thorough Examination passes MHE & lifting equipment for safe operation

15 July 2021

The safe operation of material handling equipment is essential not only to the efficiency of the industry, but to the well being of everyone who works within it

This has traditionally been a core principle of the two leading trade organisations within the material handling industry – the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA). Whilst the importance of the message remains unequivocal, responsibility for the delivery of that message has changed following the formation of the UK Material Handling Association (UKMHA).

The UKMHA has been created to represent all the interests of the material handling industry and to ensure it has a single, authoritative voice. It has been formed following a merger between BITA and the FLTA, together with their co-owned subsidiary, Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), the accrediting body introduced to deliver the first national procedure for Thorough Examination.

Moving forward, the UKMHA will be the organisation promoting each member association’s key safety campaigns, in the case of BITA, that is National Forklift Safety Day (NFSD) and for the FLTA, the Forklift Safety Convention and Safety Drive.

To underline the new association’s commitment to strong safety protocols it opted to have its official launch coincide with this year’s NFSD.

National Forklift Safety Day

For the 2021 NFSD campaign, the new body chose to focus on the importance of accredited Thorough Examination. The campaign coincided with the publication of an updated BITA GN28 - the industry approved guideline on Thorough Examination and Safety Inspection of Industrial Lift Trucks in accordance with the provisions of LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) 1998 and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) 1998.

NFSD traditionally takes place on the second Tuesday in June but while this remains the focal point of the campaign, the key message is in perpetuity, reinforcing the campaign’s goal of Make Every Day, National Forklift Safety Day.

The 2021 campaign could not have been be timelier. As industry emerges from the latest COVID-19 lockdown, companies reliant on material handling equipment must ensure their MHE is in good condition with no dangerous defects or deterioration.

David Goss, technical director, UK Material Handling Association said: “If MHE has been idle during lockdown, then management has a responsibility to ensure it is safely recommissioned and the best way of ensuring this is to have the equipment examined by a suitably qualified competent person.”

Best practice is to put the equipment through a Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS) inspection known as Thorough Examination.

What is Thorough Examination?

A Thorough Examination is the name given to the mandatory inspection required by law to ensure the mechanical parts of a lift truck are in safe working order. It is roughly equivalent to the MOT for cars.

UKMHA is recommending that all Thorough Examinations should be completed by a CFTS-accredited Competent Person. The CFTS mark is a guarantee that a lift truck will be examined carefully, and that key components such as brakes and steering will also be checked along with the lifting mechanism.

“All MHE must receive a Thorough Examination at least once a year. However, examinations could be required more often depending on the type of truck and the application,” added Goss.

“The process is governed by regulations enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These state that Thorough Examination of industrial lift trucks is required under LOLER 1998, which covers lifting equipment, and safety inspections of other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres, are required under PUWER 1998.”

What is a Thorough Examination of a truck is intended to do?

It should:

- Establish that the truck can continue to be operated safely and without injury to persons - provided the truck is operated to the manufacturer’s recommendations

- Verify the truck is operating as it should when lifting and travelling

- Identify any defects or weaknesses which could compromise the safe use of the truck

- Specify the timescales within which identified defects or weaknesses need to be rectified

- Establish that defects identified in a previous Thorough Examination report have received attention

- Assess all safety devices are functioning correctly

- Check that warning notices are correctly fixed and legible; and

- Where necessary, specify any limitations on the use of the truck.

It is important to highlight that regular inspections as part of a preventive maintenance scheme or scheduled service do not meet the legal requirements for a Thorough Examination. Thorough Examinations can only be carried out by people deemed competent, and these people are under a legal obligation to report dangerous defects to the authorities.

What is a Competent Person?

- A CFTS-accredited Competent Person must have a minimum of five years’ experience as a forklift truck service engineer, including appropriate apprentice training.

- They must be capable of inspecting a full range of forklift trucks for safety critical items. These include, all hydraulics, braking systems, steering systems, traction systems, safety systems and general structure.

- They must also have passed a Thorough Examination course approved by Consolidated Fork Truck Services and be authorised as a Competent Person by their current employer.

- They are required to undergo a revalidation course at least every five years, provided by a body approved by CFTS.

CFTS is the industry body set up for the accreditation of examiners and inspection companies. It maintains a list of members and details of this are available from the CFTS website www.thoroughexamination.org

It is crucial to ensure that individual Thorough Examinations comprehensively cover both the lifting and the driving mechanisms of the truck, because not all of them do. Some examinations only cover LOLER, which could put equipment, operators and businesses at risk.

In addition, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 gives every employer a duty of care to their employees and any truck that has not had its brakes, steering or structural integrity checked is not considered safe.

Updated GN28

The updated GN28, which is free to members of BITA and FLTA, incorporates several changes to the current guidelines, including clarification around the date of first examination, confirmation on requirements for lorry-mounted trucks, recommended intervals between examinations for attachments, and improved guidance on inspection and test criteria.

The UKMHA is reaching out to all industries where MHE is used, to actively support NFSD and to encourage their customers, suppliers, and other companies to do likewise.

“UKMHA is proud to be delivering National Forklift Safety Day for 2021 and beyond. The campaign provides an opportunity for everyone to promote a safer material handling industry and to propagate best practice across the sector. We hope the entire industry will unite behind the cause and spread the word as wide as possible,” said Goss.

Further information on the campaign will be posted to the National Forklift Safety Day website www.nationalforkliftsafetyday.co.ok. The portal also contains an archive detailing important safety messages from previous campaigns.

For non-members of BITA or the FLTA, copies of the updated GN28 note can be purchased from the BITA online shop www.bita.org.uk/shop.