84% of employers uncertain of Thorough Examination responsibilities

10 August 2012

With a continuing rise in the number of companies renting fork lift trucks, industry experts have raised concerns that uncertainty over who exactly is responsible for Thorough Examinations could be placing managers and directors at the risk of prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.

Nationwide research carried out on behalf of Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS) has revealed that 84% of supervisors and managers surveyed incorrectly hold their materials handling provider at least partially accountable for ensuring their truck holds a current Report of Thorough Examination.

Worryingly, 30% of respondents, who oversee operations of one or more fork lift trucks, believed that their service provider – as the truck’s owner – would be solely responsible for this essential task.  Again, this is not the case.

According to CFTS Chairman Richard Hayes, “Whether a fork lift truck is owned or on hire, users and fleet owners should be fully aware of their responsibilities. Knowing that any user is unclear about this subject indicates that they are being inappropriately advised, if at all.”

“Under Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), the employer of a fork lift truck operator has a duty of care to make sure that a fork lift truck in use is safe. When that truck is owned by the employer, the implication of this duty is clear. The employer must arrange a regular Thorough Examination schedule appropriate to the truck and its use.

“Hirers have a duty to ensure that their lift trucks are safe for their employees to use and are thoroughly examined at the appropriate intervals. It is important for both the hire company and the hirer to establish which party will carry out safety-related maintenance and Thorough Examinations. Hirers need to ensure that necessary inspections and pre-use checks are carried out and defects reported and remedied as necessary.

“However, it is important to note that when a truck is leased or rented on a long-term basis, this responsibility remains with the employer of the driver.  He or she must make certain that a current and valid Thorough Examination Certificate is in place and available for inspection. Any change to this, making the maintenance service provider responsible, should be included in the maintenance contract.

“In cases where a truck is rented for less than one year, although the rental company is responsible for arranging Thorough Examination (as the owners of the equipment), the employer of the operator must still satisfy him or herself that the truck is legally compliant.  Usually this means insisting on having a copy of the Report of Thorough Examination included with the rental documentation.” 

There is a requirement under PUWER 98 for all work equipment to be regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and under LOLER 98 for lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined to ensure it remains in a safe condition.

Fork lift truck users should ensure that their lift trucks have been thoroughly examined by a Competent Person within the previous 12 months (or sooner depending on the operational conditions).