Fit for purpose: five resolutions to transform safety in your workplace

Fit for purpose: five resolutions to transform safety in your workplace

Managing Director | Association of Industrial Truck Trainers

It’s the start of another New Year… a time to review our lifestyle choices and work out how to turn things around.

Where better to begin than at work and in particular your materials handling operations – an area fraught with particular danger.

At accrediting body AITT we’ve come up with five resolutions that everyone – forklift operators and employers alike – can actually keep.

1. Keep fit

It sounds obvious but a first step is to make sure your staff have the physical and mental fitness plus the learning ability for the role of forklift operator. Each should be medically examined:

• Prior to employment

• Between 40 to 45 years of age – then every five years

• At 60 – then every year

• After one month + sickness absence (or sooner than that if the illness might affect performance)

• If an operator has been involved in an accident or a near-miss, undergoing an accredited re-training program is the first natural solution. However it’s possible that his/her state of health could have been a contributory factor.

2. Regular assessment sessions

Review how people are performing. We encourage customers in carrying out assessments of individuals. AITT training providers can perform specific tests to pinpoint key areas to improve each operator’s ability and awareness.

3. Do your porridge

Follow the example of the Olympics Delivery Authority by encouraging operators to eat a healthy breakfast. During construction of the Olympic Stadium, bosses discovered that a staggering 41 per cent of the workforce was overweight and 29 per cent had high blood pressure. Accidents were being caused by workers eating a late fatty dinner and then skipping breakfast… leaving them desperate for their lunch. As a result, accidents peaked in the one-hour period before lunch when blood sugar levels were really low and workers’ minds were focused on what they were going to eat rather than the task in hand.

The solution was to offer bowls of porridge for just £1. Uptake was enormous, accident rates plummeted and in the end a total of 125 reportable injuries across more than 80 million man hours worked was the best ever achieved on a major UK construction project.

4. Take a break

Forklift operator observation was identified by ABA (Accrediting Bodies Association) as an area of concern, and major contributor of workplace accidents. Regular breaks benefit the employer as well as the employee. According to researchers, even a 30 second micro-break can increase productivity by 13 per cent.

It pays, therefore to structure tasks to acknowledge that no forklift truck operator can be on the case at all times. Indeed, behavioral psychologist Tim Marsh confirms that the average worker, fit, rested and stress free can only concentrate for around 55 minutes in an hour. Moreover, if s/he is tired, stressed or coming off a split shift that falls dramatically.

Managers and operators need to acknowledge this and use the time when operators are brightest and most alert to perform the most crucial tasks. Indeed, it also makes sense to build in operator breaks – the optimum being six minutes downtime in every 80… (think of it as a healthier version than a ‘ciggie’ break)

Importantly, breaks are most effective if they are taken BEFORE they’re needed.

5. Reach for the skies

In operations where there is a risk of RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries) recent evidence suggests that taking just a five-minute break every hour can eliminate pain in forearms, wrists and hands.

Use that time to 'reach for the skies' and you’ll drive oxygen up to your brain: refreshing and reinvigorating you for improved attention and accuracy. It’s almost a truism that an energised and 'work-ready' operator is less likely to make shortcuts (one of the more typical being failure to complete their daily checks of their truck).

Your role, as an employer, is to support and reward operators for achieving their goals, even if this involves temporary downtime from a truck. All the evidence indicates you’ll have a healthier, more motived, safer operator, who’ll reward your lifestyle choices with greater productivity and greater loyalty.

For more information on AITT training courses or achieving AITT-accreditation for instructors or training centres, please contact the Association on 01530 810867 or email