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BITA: Ensuring the industry’s future is in safe hands

01 August 2013

The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) mission statement “lifting industry standards” is at the forefront of secretary general James Clark’s mind as two key dates loom on the horizon.

We are now into the final build up for IMHX 2013, the essential intralogistics exhibition. In March 2013, more than 350 exhibitors will be gathering at what promises to be one of the biggest IMHX events ever, showcasing thousands of new products and services as well as state-of-the-art technological innovations. With IMHX bringing together 20,000 logistics professionals in one place, there are many ways for companies to promote themselves at the event. And what better way of doing this than highlighting the safety design features of their products?

Safety is the number one priority for the materials handling industry and underpins BITA’s motto to lift industry standards – not just in terms of safe working practices but also design innovations. Manufacturers and suppliers of all types of warehousing equipment and services play a critical role in safety assurance, by continually improving the designs of their products.

Design 4 Safety Awards
The IMHX Design 4 Safety Awards, which made their debut at IMHX 2010, recognise the industry’s commitment to safety and highlight the importance of product design in improving safety standards. Last time around, four categories of winning products were elected by a panel of Health & Safety experts, featuring entries from Transdek, Cooper SH, Sentry Protection Products and Toyota Material Handling UK (whose BT Pro Lifter Hand Pallet Truck was voted the ‘popular’ winner by show visitors).

After its inaugural success Design 4 Safety is returning bigger and better at IMHX 2013. There are now six categories, reflecting the incredible diversity of materials handling product areas that will be showcased at the event. What remains the same, however, is the fact that these awards recognise innovative thinking regardless of product type or cost.

Three shortlisted entries in each category will be announced on 1 February, with overall winners in each category will be announced at a VIP IMHX Awards event on 19 March.

Securing the future
Another key date, that has very much been on people’s minds, is January 2013, which will mark the first anniversary of students starting work at the BITA Academy at City of Bristol College. After opening in November 2011, the BITA Academy is already established as a further education initiative that’s attracting the high-quality apprentices necessary to secure continued availability of qualified engineers in the sector.

As a trade association, BITA is able to offer a pooling scheme for its graduate apprentices which greatly enhances employment opportunities for graduates of the apprenticeship scheme and maximises the opportunities for retaining newly-skilled people within the sector. This enables free movement of newly trained engineers between participating companies giving apprentices the best possible chance of securing a job after completion of their course — even if their original sponsoring companies are restricted on headcount.

While BITA sales statistics showing forklift truck sales continue to rise in the UK, outperforming the economy as a whole, there is a very real need for the sector to attract high-quality apprentices to secure continued availability of qualified engineers. At a time when the numbers of young people not in education or employment are rising, the BITA Academy offers young people not only high-quality training in essential maintenance and repair techniques – but also the skills required to pursue a real career all the way to management level.

Ideas 4 Safety
The input that the growing numbers of apprentices can bring to the industry in terms of fresh thinking is also being recognised at IMHX under the Design 4 Safety umbrella. A brand-new awards category, Ideas 4 Safety, has been created to recognise the safety contributions of tomorrow’s industry leaders who are starting their careers today. All bona fide materials handling apprentices – not only in lift trucks but any branch of the industry – are invited to propose how they would increase safety within the industry, either through enhancing existing types of product or procedure, or by creating new, innovative approaches.

This award will be judged purely on creative thinking and ideas, not technical execution, to ensure a level playing field for all apprentices no matter what stage of training they have reached. Entries can be submitted via http://www.imhx.biz/design4safety/i4s until the closing date of 11 January.

Spotlight on apprentices
Ideas 4 Safety comes at a time when apprentices – and apprenticeships – are increasingly beginning to look like a superior option for employers and students alike. The increase in university tuition fees, with the majority of courses offered now at the top rate of £9,000 per year reinforces the case for being paid while you earn. There is growing evidence too that apprentices are increasingly valued for their loyalty, willingness to learn and overall positive attitude; graduates all too often display inflated expectations and limit their value to employers by moving on too quickly. University applications were down by around 30,000 students compared to last year – which could be a positive development when it comes to recruiting more high-quality apprentices into lift-truck engineering, and the materials handling industry as a whole.