Plant & Works Engineering
Bespoke approach to training
Published:  08 July, 2011

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned that despite improvements over recent years, the number of workplace accidents involving fork lift trucks remains too high for complacency. This view is shared by Dean Mansell, engineering standards manager at Briggs Equipment. PWE takes a look at how the company believes a fresh, bespoke approach to training can save firms tens of thousands of pounds as well as reduce the risks of accidents.


Late last year Peter Lennon, HSE’s head of workplace transport, told the annual National Fork Lift Safety Conference that in 2008/9 there were more than 1800 serious incidents involving forklifts. He also said that one of the HSE’s biggest aims is to improve operator training and this is something that we strongly believe in.

In fact, the only way to really improve training is by taking into account the unique nature of each and every workplace. We see this as the only way forward to reduce both the human cost of accidents and the impact they can have on a firm’s profitability.

While most companies accept the importance of training as a key element of health and safety, the quality of training varies widely. For many operators, the only training they will receive is well away from their actual place of work, on trucks they may be unfamiliar with.

As part of their training they are also often asked to handle loads that are very different from the ones they move day-in, day out. As a result, much of the training becomes a tick-box exercise. The operator may have a certificate saying they are competent to operate the trucks and their employer may have fulfilled its legal obligations but there is much more that can be done to improve safety in the workplace.

If training is to be really effective it must be carried out on-site, in the ‘real world’ as no two workplaces are the same. The layout is different with unique obstacles, obstructions and other hazards such as uneven floors, and training needs to reflect this.

In fact Briggs has seen a significant surge in interest in its training packages recently as more businesses recognise that training is not just about meeting health and safety requirements but has a direct link to the bottom line.

Over a number of years, our health and safety manager, Ken Stoll, has studied the implications of fork lift related accidents – taking into account wear and tear on trucks and repair costs as well as compensation payouts.

One company that he looked at had a fleet of 46 trucks and over 12 months it reported 255 incidents of damage to these machines. The average cost of repairing the damage each time was around £450 but the damage frequency rate meant the customer was paying around £2300 per truck per year.

The company operates in the food industry and these figures were well above our known damage frequency rates in that sector so it was clear that existing training did not match the company’s unique working environment.

Following the introduction of a bespoke training programme, the firm has now reduced the cost of damage to below the industry average of around £536 per annum.

This clearly illustrates the savings that can be made by investing in more effective, bespoke training and beyond this there is the reduction in exposure to more costly claims and penalties that can result from accidents involving personal injury. Alarmingly these claims and fines typically cost six times more than the actual damage figures.

Looking to the future, Briggs is further developing its holistic approach to health and safety with the introduction of new technology that will work alongside its operator training programmes.

For example, the Speedshield asset management system offers real time fleet control and information on truck speeds, efficiency, damage and misuse. Increasingly our clients are specifying Speedshield when ordering new trucks as it makes drivers more accountable for their behaviour whilst highlighting where improvements can be made and identifying training that may be required.

In one case, the system has saved a waste management company around £11,000 in just three months after reducing the amount of damage to trucks and other property at one of its recycling plants. The company had realised that driver behaviour was largely responsible for damage estimated at £5000 per month but this has now been reduced to around £4000 per quarter following the introduction of Speedshield. What’s more these figures do not take into account the firm’s reduced exposure to any injury claims and savings made through greater fuel efficiency.

The HSE says it would like to see further reductions in accidents over the next few years and this can only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to fleet management that includes embracing new technology, influencing driver behaviour and investing in effective training that recognises the unique environments in which operators work. This training can then be taken a step further by promoting safety champions on the shop floor who help to spread best practice and promote driving excellence.

Such investments will not only please the HSE, they will also deliver real cost savings for firms during the current period of economic uncertainty. 

Case study

A company that has embraced an holistic approach to training has been The Garden Centre Group, which recently signed a contract with Briggs for the supply of around 130 trucks across 120 sites that include Blooms, Sanders and Wyevale garden centres.

As part of the deal Briggs agreed to provide a comprehensive, ongoing training programme alongside the introduction of the new Yale trucks and other handling equipment.

“This contract offers an excellent example of the benefits of bespoke training as the garden centre environment is very different from many other places where forklifts usually operate”, said Dean Mansell, engineering standards manager at Briggs Equipment.

“Operators are not dealing with standard pallet sizes and garden centres rarely have a typical warehouse layout. As a result the company had previously suffered from higher than expected damages to goods due to forklift incidents.”

As part of the agreement Briggs carried out a comprehensive risk assessment prior to embarking on the training programme so that it could be tailored to meet the company’s unique challenges. Briggs also produced a bespoke training video, filmed on site, for the company to re-enforce the safety messages.

“Although it is early days, and confirmed figures are not yet available to illustrate the reduction in incidents, clear signs of its effectiveness are already being demonstrated,” Dean continued. “Just by simply walking the floor of the centres you can clearly see the adoption of new behaviours - such as load spacing - being put into practice. The training has certainly been well received by both operators and the company.”

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