A 37-year-old man who died as a result of crush injuries sustained at his job as a driver at a business park in Plymouth could have avoided injury if his place of work had a more efficient and thorough system for inspecting pallet trucks. The investigation into the March 2009 incident concluded recently with evidence suggesting that the lack of mechanical handling equipment forced the man to unload a pallet by hand, resulting in him losing control of the load.
Phil Chesworth, Managing Direct of Pallet Truck Shop, one of the country’s leading suppliers of pallet trucks and other manual handling equipment, says, “The workplace in question could have prevented a horrendous accident simply by carrying out more thorough checks on their equipment. It is crucial that all companies have appropriate health and safety procedures in place and have a regular schedule for checking equipment, to minimise the risk of such accidents occurring in their own working environment.”
There should be two elements to the regular inspection of a hand pallet truck or any other manual handling equipment. The first element is the vehicle inspection itself. Examining the forks will ensure they are in good enough working order to hold the heavy loads that are demanded of it. All hand guards and handles should be examined closely to ensure they are not faulty; many pallet trucks have brakes and other controls attached to the handles, and checking these is also paramount. If the truck is battery-powered, like some semi-electric stacker trucks are, all of the battery cables and connectors should be monitored; the status of the battery and the last time it was fully charged should all be written down on an easily accessible record. The person inspecting the truck should look for any loose parts and examine the overall appearance of the equipment before passing it as acceptable for use.
The second part of the examination process is the operation of the truck. With a light load, test the lifting and lower controls. They should be smooth and easy to operate. If the truck has directional tools or a steering mechanism, it should be taken for a short test run in the workplace to ensure that the operator will have maximum control over the truck. Any other buttons and switches should be checked and re-checked, to give the employee and the employer peace of mind that using the truck will not result in tragedy.
If there are any faults with a truck, a regular check like this will surely flag them up before they become dangerous enough to significantly injure someone. A wobbly wheel, a damaged form or brakes which aren’t in top form can easily be spotted at some point during the recommended inspection, so it is crucial that managers ensure these examination periods are carried out before any trucks are put into use.