Lift Truck Operators
About 8000 lift truck accidents resulting in injury, sometimes death, occur each year. Incidents may also result in damage to lift trucks buildings, fittings and goods being handled, and may disrupt work, all of which can be costly.
The Health and Safety Executive are keen for companies to implement simple measures to prevent lit truck accidents and have published guidance on “Safe Working with Lift Trucks” HSG(6).
Following the guidance is not compulsory however it may be used for illustrating good practice for Health and Safety Inspectors seeking to secure compliance with the law and for negligence claims.
The guidance states that ‘people selected to operate lift trucks should be free from physical defects that might pose a threat to their own health or safety or the safety of others who might be affected by their operation of lift trucks’. A valid driving licence indicates fitness to drive on a public highway and does not guarantee fitness to operate a fork truck.
Fitness for operating lift trucks should be judged individually and it is recommended that individuals’ fitness for work are assessed on a regular basis.
Who should be medically assessed?
HSE guidance recommends that it is good practice for all operators of to be screened for fitness.
Is it a legal requirement?
It is not a legal requirement to have Lift Truck Medicals, but it is recommended good practice and could be seen as negligence if they are not done.
What does medical assessment entail?
- A past medical history questionnaire
- Blood pressure check
- Vision screen for distance, depth perception, visual fields
- Trunk and neck mobility and general agility check
- Urinalysis where there is risk indicators of diabetes.
How long does it take?
Normal screening takes 30 minutes
Where there are communication difficulties, it may take longer.
How often should surveillance be done?
HSE guidance recommends that it is good practice for all operators of to be screened for fitness:
- prior to employment or training
- on reaching age 40 and then 5 yearly
- on reaching age 65and then annually.
Assessment is also recommended:
- In all cases following an accident.
- Following sickness absence of more than one month, or a shorter period if it is likely that the illness might affect the individual’s ability to operate a fork truck.
- If an employer or operator become aware of a condition that may affect an individual’s fitness to operate a fork truck.
Peritus Health Management believes that where a company’s sickness absence procedures are unlikely to identify individuals who require additional assessment, a regular screen for all every 3 years may be beneficial.
What happens if abnormalities are detected?
Where abnormalities are detected, a risk assessment will be undertaken to determine whether:
- a temporary fitness certificate will be issued to allow the individual the opportunity to take action to manage the abnormality. E.g. Raised blood pressure readings may be investigated further by the GP and managed as clinically indicated
- an ‘unfit’ certificate will be issued until evidence has been obtained that the individual has managed the abnormality. E.g. vision screening identifies poor vision which requires corrective lenses to be worn. The individual would not be fit until they have been prescribed and are wearing the corrective lenses.
Screening is repeated as recommended by the Occupational Health Advisor in light of the results of the medical.
What medical conditions will exclude me from operating a fork truck?
Mobility – Fork truck operators should have full movement of the trunk, neck and limbs and posses normal agility.
Drug/alcohol dependence – An individual who is dependant on alcohol or non-prescribed drugs should NOT be employed as a fork truck driver. Where there is a history of dependence there should be a period of 1 year free from dependency before consideration of fitness to operate a fork truck.
Mental health- a history of previous mental illness should not necessarily preclude selection but where there is suspicion of, or knowledge of a psychiatric disorder an operator should be barred from lift truck operation until medical assessment has been made and fitness judged against the relevant guidelines.
Vision – the operator should have good judgement of space and distance – generally this requires effective use of both eyes although monocular vision will not necessarily exclude an individual as certain kinds of truck work can be performed satisfactorily.
Distance vision should be the same standard for driving a car on public roads. Uncontrolled diplopia will bar an individual from operating a fork truck until satisfactorily controlled.
Hearing – the ability to hear instructions and warning signs is important but if the individual demonstrates on risk assessment that the deafness does not constitute a hazard it should not disqualify him/her.
Epilepsy – If an operator has epilepsy but is eligible for a driving licence i.e. fit free for one year then he/she should not be disqualified.
Equality Act – People with disability should not be disadvantaged as many develop compensatory skills. Individual risk assessment will establish the operator’s ability to safely carry out the work and also establish what if any reasonable adjustments to the vehicle or job are required.
Diabetes mellitus – usually causes no problems if well controlled by diet or tablets. The use of insulin is normally acceptable as long as there is satisfactory control and recognition of warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia.
Heart disease – a history of a single MI is not a bar but the operator should be restricted for 1 month and reassessed afterwards.
Operators suffering from angina should be barred until the condition is stabilised.
Operators who are hypertensive may continue unless treatment causes unacceptable side effects.
Operators who suffer from arrhythmias should be barred until satisfactory cardiac function is achieved.
Disorders of the balance – Uncontrolled vertigo and disorders of balance will bar an individual from fork truck operation.
Fitness to operate fork trucks may be impaired by the effects of medication whether prescribed or purchased over the counter. Operators should seek advice from the GP or pharmacist and inform their employer about any potential effects the medication may have on their ability to operate fork trucks safely.
Fitness for operation is ultimately judged individually by risk assessment.
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