Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trade Bodies Warn Against Modifications to Fork Lift Trucks

Users Face Danger if Using Unauthorised Changes
Shipping News Feature
UK – The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) have warned that unauthorised modifications to fork lift trucks can endanger staff and invalidate warranties. The services, widely advertised and offered by many companies, are far from risk-free with the two industry bodies saying that truck modifications that are not factory approved may affect capacity, stability or safety requirements. BITA Secretary-General James Clark explains:

“A recent presentation to our Truck Suppliers Group (TSG) clearly demonstrated the risks and dangers behind unauthorised modifications, making the point that assessment and implementation of truck modifications is a skilled task requiring detailed and specialised engineering knowledge.”

“It’s not as if the regulations are hard to understand. However only the most cursory web search is required to identify companies advertising modification changes to forklift trucks, as if this were normal practice and presented no safety hazards whatsoever.”

The two associations warned that companies making modifications do not realise the consequences, or are not aware of their responsibilities and liabilities, should something go wrong with a modification at a later date, though there is a very clear standard for the safety requirements of industrial trucks, BS EN ISO 3691-1:2015, which states in paragraph that ‘unauthorised truck modification is not permitted’. Peter Harvey MBE, FLTA Chief Executive, commented:

“This is an important industry-wide issue, and is especially important when trucks are leased. Unauthorised modifications or repairs – even changing tyres – could invalidate rental contracts or manufacturer warranties, leaving users to foot repair bills. So it is crucial that those utilising lift trucks understand what they can and cannot do. Failure to do so puts them at risk of unexpected repair bills and much more. Before making any changes to the original equipment customers must consult the manufacturer or authorised dealer.”

Examples of modifications commonly being offered include mast reductions, drive-in racking modifications, and perhaps most disturbingly, truck head guard modifications. BITA’s TSG has been provided with some examples of real concern:

  • A cab-pillar section was removed and re-welded as part of a drive in racking modification. Without knowledge of the exact material grade used in manufacture, it would be difficult or impossible to certify the welding and it is extremely doubtful whether the modification would pass an ISO 6055 impact test
  • A counterbalance truck fitted with extended 15ft-long forks, dangerously reducing stability
  • Fork-mounted ‘safe’ access platforms, advertised as though permitted for routine use
  • Hoists mounted to overhead guards, reducing strength, impeding operator visibility, and applying loads outside the design limits

These are just a few examples, in addition there are more ‘informal’ modifications such as adding additional weight (in the form of drums full of water or toolboxes filled with concrete) to increase the lifting capacity of counterbalance trucks. Clark, added:

“We are sure there are many more examples out there, and accidents and deaths have been linked to making unauthorised modifications that affect the safe operation of trucks. Those undertaking such work should understand that, depending on the modification, they may have inadvertently taken on the responsibilities of being the equipment manufacturer, with all the risks of prosecution and redress this entails.

“Modification of a forklift truck without the manufacturer’s approval could invalidate the warranty and the CE marking, making it difficult if not impossible to re-sell elsewhere. This is an issue to which, as an organisation which cares deeply about safety at all levels, causes us great concern.”