Notice to Owners and Users of Materials Handling and Plant Equipment

In consultation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and The Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) have issued a joint statement in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

The statement in full is as follows:

As the world responds to the global pandemic of COVID-19, we recognise and commend your commitment to doing all you can to help protect your employees, their families and those in your communities. Materials handling and plant equipment is everywhere, and for many companies they are the cornerstone of keeping their business operational.

As a responsible industry that works predominantly on customers’ sites, the health, safety and wellbeing of your staff, your customers and anyone associated with your business is of the utmost importance to us during this challenging time.

We are therefore urging industry-wide support for our call to action, which is aimed at ensuring:

  1. We do all we can to protect staff and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus; and
  1. We keep our customers’ businesses operational and in particular, those playing vital roles in maintaining the supply chains that support our communities and our health services.

We fully recognise that in these unprecedented times, many of you are taking robust and dynamic action to help protect your staff and as an industry, we fully support this. Nevertheless, it has come to our attention that as part of these measures some of you have taken the initiative to reduce or entirely ban, any external parties from attending your sites.

Whilst taking such urgent steps is commendable, it is our concern that acting in such haste could lead to important considerations being overlooked. Therefore, we would urge a coordinated, industry-wide approach which gives due consideration to the need to maintain essential services. In tandem with this, all non-essential activity should be re-planned, deferred or halted completely until such time as the current crisis is over.

The importance of control measures around the use of materials handling and plant equipment should not be taken lightly. Sadly, it is not uncommon for these types of equipment to be involved in serious or even fatal accidents when they are not managed correctly and as a responsible user, we are sure you are all too aware of this.

The ongoing scheduled maintenance, repair and statutory inspection of materials handling and plant equipment is fundamental to its safe use. By stopping these activities, users are at very serious risk of jeopardising the safety of their staff and any person the equipment interacts with. Failure to maintain, repair and inspect equipment within agreed guidelines leads to component failures, damage, and ultimately accidents.

As an industry, we work closely with the Health and Safety Executive and we recognise it as our joint responsibility to help advise equipment users on fundamental best practice and indeed legal requirements, to help keep their staff safe and their businesses compliant.

  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) make clear that scheduled maintenance and inspections must be undertaken by a suitably competent person in line with recommended intervals.
  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) make clear that any lifting equipment must be subject to a Thorough Examination at intervals advised by a Competent Person, not exceeding 12 months (6 months for equipment that lifts people).

Whilst we appreciate these are unprecedented times, these fundamental requirements remain in place as a strict expectation for any business operating materials handling and plant equipment. The joint recommendation from BITA, the FLTA and the Health and Safety Executive, is that scheduled maintenance, repairs and statutory inspections must be considered essential ongoing activities for any users of such equipment.

Whilst equipment remains operational, it is imperative for the safety of your staff and the overall legal compliance of your business, that you allow your service and maintenance provider — and where applicable — your Thorough Examination provider, ready access to the equipment in order to keep it safe and compliant.

These are anxious times for us all, and whilst we appreciate you are doing all you can in good faith and with the best of intentions, it is important we do not lose sight of the fundamental legal and best practice requirements of maintaining a safe workplace.

The statement is signed by the heads of both associations; James Clark, Secretary General, BITA and Tim Waples, Chief Executive, FLTA.