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Why accreditation matters

17 November 2023

Thorough Examination accrediting body CFTS reveals why a nationally agreed testing framework is so important and 12 reasons why accreditation is vital in maintaining standards.

WITH THE number of deaths and injuries across UK industry showing no sign of declining, safety remains a singularly high priority. And nowhere is that more apparent than in materials handling, which accounts for more accidents than any other form of workplace transport.

The obvious starting point for the necessary improvement is ensuring that equipment is safe and fit for purpose. Worryingly, though, there is growing concern regarding the quality and robustness of many mandatory safety inspections: Thorough Examinations. Especially since a large number are not accredited, not audited, and do not conform to a nationally agreed standard. 

All inspections are not the same…

Surprisingly – perhaps alarmingly – a great many Thorough Examinations only meet the requirements of LOLER (covering lifting components). In doing so they fail to comply with HSE guidelines. So, how did we get here? The problem stems from the fact that – unlike the automotive sector – there was never a government-defined testing procedure comparable to the MOT. Rather, individual companies could set up their own procedures and inspection checklists. 

That all changed 20 years ago, when the leading bodies in the materials handling industry joined forces to create an accrediting body: CFTS. Its mission, to deliver a comprehensive Quality Assurance Procedural Code covering methods, training and company administration that complies fully with HSE guidelines. With that came the distinctive CFTS Quality Mark.  

Importantly, CFTS examinations cover lifting components under LOLER and safety components under PUWER. There’s a reason why it’s called a “Thorough” Examination.  

Since then, many hundreds of companies have accredited to CFTS. However there still exist many unaccredited providers of Thorough Examinations that use their own checklists and operate without independent assessment and monitoring. In doing so, the fear is they could well be putting staff working on and around materials handling equipment at unnecessary risk of injury… and employers at greater risk of prosecution.

Put it this way. How effective and respected would an MOT be if every garage or test centre could make up its own procedures and nobody bothered to police them?

Why is accreditation so important?

The accreditation framework created by CFTS provides consistency and a guarantee of quality. It ensures that those undertaking the inspection are properly experienced on the equipment along with the specifics of the Thorough Examination. Moreover, every examiner is compelled to receive appropriate refresher training.

Alongside that, all CFTS-accredited companies receive regular audits to ensure the management of all Thorough Examination procedures are fully up to date.

Accreditation matters in the real world because most employers don’t have the time to properly check the methods and credentials of an inspection provider who may only visit once a year and then disappear.

Here are 12 reasons why seeking out a CFTS-accredited provider is so important:

Consistency: wherever you are in the country and however many sites you have, each is inspected to the same standard, using the same, extensive checklist (this also includes a separate, dedicated checklist for attachments, developed in conjunction with the leading manufacturers/importers)

Competence: the examiners employed by a CFTS-accredited company must possess the practical skills, qualifications and specific training to complete a Thorough Examination

Traceability: complete audit trail for all aspects and all actions for every inspection 

Experience: CFTS-accredited examiners must have served 5 years as a service engineer in a relevant sector and successfully completed a course at an approved training centre

In-depth training: every examiner must undergo regular refresher training

Compliance: CFTS-accredited Thorough Examinations align with the latest regulations

Accountability: get the backing of the accrediting body in case of any disputes

Monitored service: the work of examiners is routinely audited to safeguard standards and ensure procedures are up to date

Comprehensive: a CFTS-accredited Thorough Examination meets all HSE requirements by covering both LOLER and PUWER

Cost-effective: rates are directly comparable with unregulated examiners  

Quality mark: CFTS independent assurance of quality 

Local: with more than 800 CFTS-accredited depots across the UK, excellence is on your doorstep

Finally… do you want a generalist or a specialist? Many, perhaps the majority, of non-CFTS-accredited examiners are generalists rather than experienced forklift engineers... which can raise two issues. 

Firstly they often lack the specialised equipment needed to conduct a truly comprehensive Thorough Examination. Secondly, they lack the everyday experience and practical wisdom to evaluate component wear in a real-world context.

Taking these in turn, a CFTS-accredited examiner carries a wide range of tools specifically designed to deliver accurate, replicable measurements that show exact increments of wear. Among these are: fork wear gauge, chain wear gauge (to measure leaf and roller chain wear by percentage of elongation), digital or manual vernier caliper, fork wear caliper and digital angle protractor and set.

It’s also worth checking whether your examiner comes equipped with a harness for working at height, truck blocks to secure equipment, torches to inspect defects, UV torches for crack detection, toe jacks for better access, rachet straps to secure masts and forks, mast blocks, etc.  

If they don’t, how can they do a proper job? Insisting your examination is undertaken by an experienced CFTS-accredited engineer rather than a generalist ensures they bring a high level of judgement that can prove vital when assessing the degree of wear on critical components such as chains, forks, brakes and steering. Without the ability to assess components in the context of the application, the danger is that they will require them to be replaced too soon, causing unnecessary costs. Alternatively, without fully understanding the application they may misjudge the potential risks.

In summary, as an employer it’s vital to ensure your safety inspections (Thorough Examinations) are completed to rigorous, defined and nationally consistent standards that are independently audited and comply with HSE guidelines.

If you need further guidance concerning what needs to be covered, and at what intervals, any CFTS-accredited company will be happy to assist. You’ll find details of all 800+ accredited depots nationwide on the CFTS website.