Saving life and limb (literally)
1st September, 2008
Next week marks the introduction of an important national safety campaign, attempting to reduce the shocking number of serious fork lift truck accidents at British workplaces.
Literally every day, someone in the UK is hospitalised or killed by one of Britain’s 350,000 fork lift trucks.
HSE statistics show fork lift accidents cause major injuries, such as long-bone fractures, unconsciousness and amputations, at a frightening rate of over 400 per year: more than workplace cars and HGVs combined. Fatalities occur on average every six weeks.
September is statistically the deadliest month, with around double the average rate of serious accidents – two per day – and deaths on a fortnightly basis.
National Fork Lift Safety Week (22nd – 28th September 2008) is the culmination of a month-long campaign by members of the Fork Lift Truck Association, the UK’s independent authority on fork lift trucks,attempting to reduce this accident toll.
Crucially, the week’s key message – “Pedestrians and fork lift trucks don’t mix” – is largely aimed at people who are not fork lift truck operators.
As many as two thirds of accidents kill or injure someone who was not driving the truck at the time – meaning anyone visiting or working at one of the estimated 100,000 British businesses that use a fork lift truck could be at risk.
The approach has been welcomed by accident victims, including Lisa Ramos from Kirkby-in-Ashfield.
While at work in 2006, Lisa’s left leg was crushed by a reversing, 2.5 tonne fork lift truck. The accident caused horrific injuries and led to an above-the-knee amputation.
Still undergoing rehabilitation and in constant pain, the 35-year-old mum of one is keen to warn drivers and pedestrians alike to take the dangers more seriously.
She says: “I couldn’t believe it when I found out that accidents like mine happen to workers all over Britain, literally every day. Part of the problem is, people don’t think it will happen to them. They don’t notice fork lifts working, or they treat them like a toy, and that’s when they get dangerous. I’m actually lucky I wasn’t killed.”
FLTA Chief Executive David Ellison agrees: “Every day, someone in the UK receives a life-shattering injury in a fork lift accident that could have been avoided. Sadly, some are killed. Most of these people were not operating the truck at the time.
“Fork lift trucks contribute a huge amount to UK business – and for that same reason, you can find them almost everywhere, so awareness is vital.
“We want people to understand that whenever they see a fork lift truck – whether it’s at work or in their local garden centre or DIY store – they need to be careful, and to keep well clear. They must certainly never assume the operator has seen them.
“Our aim is that nobody will be killed or injured by a fork lift truck this week. To achieve this, we need people to be alert and to pass the message on to colleagues and friends. Vigilant managers, operators, workers and members of the public can make this happen – literally saving life and limb.”