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Preventing Forklift Accidents

Operating a forklift can be a high-risk occupation. According to OSHA, there are somewhere between 20,000 to 35,000 forklift accidents every year. By being aware of the dangers, looking for potential pitfalls and ensuring proper training and communication, there are steps you can take to prevent your employees from adding to that number.

According to the Industrial Truck Association, there are more than 850,000 forklifts (powered industrial trucks) in the United States and about 85 fatal accidents each year. OSHA puts it bluntly in a message to workers: “Operating a forklift without training is dangerous and can even be fatal to you or other employees working in the area.”

Most of the injuries and property damage can be linked to these causes:

  • Lack of training or improper training of workers who have to operate forklift trucks
  • Lack of enforcement of safety rules—for example, not using a forklift to elevate workers standing on the forks
  • Failure to follow safe forklift operating procedures including speed
  • Production factors such as speed or stress
  • Lack of proper tools, attachments and accessories
  • Improper assignment of forklifts and operators
  • Poor maintenance of forklifts
  • Age of forklifts

Injuries and fatalities commonly occur when:

  • Lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks
  • Lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer
  • Pedestrians are struck by a lift truck
  • Employees fall while on elevated pallets and tines

Poor behavioral and operational factors can contribute to forklift accidents:

  • Travelling at excessive speed
  • Riding with the load elevated
  • Horseplay; stunt driving; jerky, erratic driving
  • Riding or giving rides on forklift or load
  • Poor communication during shared tasks, or in shared spaces
  • Improper warnings to others about a forklift in use nearby
  • Improper backing up techniques
  • Improper turning, breaking or accelerating
  • Parking the forklift improperly
  • Improper blocking of wheels on semi-trailers or railway cars
  • Inadequate servicing of the forklift

Workplace design can contribute to forklift accidents:

  • Narrow aisles
  • Crowded, cluttered aisles
  • Obstructions at intersections and doors
  • Volume of traffic in work area
  • Walking and working in the designated areas of forklift operations
  • Conditions such as noise, odors, toxic gases, dust, or poor lighting
  • Many ramps with different surfaces
  • Condition of loading dock

Characteristics of the load creating hazards:

  • Poorly stacked or piled on the pallet
  • Broken or faulty pallets
  • Load too heavy
  • Load instability
  • Load blocking the operator’s vision

Mechanical conditions increasing the risk for forklift accidents:

  • Malfunction of brakes
  • Malfunction of steering
  • Malfunction of clutch, shift linkage, or transmission
  • Malfunction of mast assembly
  • Leaks in hydraulic systems or transmission
  • Safety devices lacking, inadequate, or malfunctioning
  • Emissions from forklifts
  • Blind spots or obstructions blocking the driver’s view

Get your forklifts checked and approved by our experts today!

Reduce and avoid accidents with pedestrians:

  • Separate the pedestrian and forklift traffic by creating designated walkways or travel ways
  • Restrict people from entering areas where the forklift is operating
  • Keep a safe distance from the forklift whenever possible
  • Pedestrians should always let the driver know they are in the area by making eye contact with the driver to ensure your presence is known
  • Ensure the area is well lit and there are no obstructions
  • Be cautious near blind corners, doorways, and narrow aisles
  • Sound the forklift horn at intersections
  • Use high-visibility clothing, where appropriate
  • Limit forklift travel speed
  • Never walk near or under raised forks
  • Do not load the forklift in a way that impede the driver’s viewing area
  • Avoid driving forklift near areas where pedestrian traffic is high (e.g., lunch rooms, time clocks, entrances/exits).

What does the OSHA standard require for forklift safety?

OSHA requires employers to develop and implement a training program based on the general principles of safe truck operation, the type of vehicle being used, the hazards of the workplace created by the use of the vehicle, and the general safety requirements of the OSHA standard.

Trained operators must know how to do the job properly and safely. Formal and practical training must be provided. Employers must certify that each operator has received the training and evaluate each operator at least once every 3 years.Before operating the truck in the workplace, the employer must evaluate the operator’s performance and determine if the operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely. Refresher training is needed whenever an operator demonstrates a deficiency in the safe operation of the truck.

Keep your lift truck operators and all employees safe. Have them trained by professionals with the experience and knowledge necessary to create a safe working environment. Summit Handling Systems can conduct training classes at your facility throughout the northeast. Contact us today for more information.