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FORKLIFT SAFETY

SAFTEY FIRST / Post date:
1 June 2013

OSHA estimates that close to 1 million forklifts are used in workplaces across the U.S.  Each year, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents.  These accidents are caused by forklifts over-turning, workers struck by materials, workers struck by lifts, and falling from lifts.


To help prevent accidents in the workplace, OSHA has several training requirements for employees.  A forklift driver must receive formal instruction (i.e. classroom, video, written materials).  Employees must receive practical instruction such as demonstrations and practice exercises AND evaluation of the operator’s performance needs to be completed.  It’s also important that the training be specific to the lift being operated and specific to the hazards of the workplace in which it will be operated.


The following provides some additional information on potential dangers in the workplace when operating forklifts:

 

Danger #1:  Forklift Overturns

Close to one out of every four fatalities occurs when a forklift tips over.  Powered industrial trucks are not as stable as automobiles and can easily tip if they are overloaded or if the load is not well-balanced.  In addition, the load becomes much less stable if the forks are not kept as close as possible to the ground.  Other risk factors include operating on a grade or a ramp and making sharp turns.


Danger #2:  Nearby Worker Struck by Forklift

Operators may not be sufficiently aware that they cannot stop a forklift on a dime and drive at unsafe speeds. It is important that they watch out for area workers who may be pedestrians or simply working at their assigned stations. At times, drivers may be operating in reverse or with restricted visibility because of the size of a load.


Danger #3:  Victim Crushed By Forklift

Forklifts are heavy.  The average forklift weights several thousand pounds, similar to a medium-sized automobile.  As a result, 16% of forklift fatalities occur when their victims are crushed by the vehicle.  There are several precautions to follow:

  1. Do not allow passengers to ride on forklift trucks unless a seat is provided.
  2. Make sure passengers are using seat belts.
  3. Never allow workers to ride on the forks.
  4. If operating in an unfamiliar location, always check the route for any hazards.

 

Danger #4:  Falls from Forklifts

Of fatal forklift accidents, 9% were the result of falls.   A few important safety rules to follow to prevent falls:

  1. Ensure that operators use only an approved lifting cage and adhere to general safety practices for elevating personnel with a forklift.
  2. Always secure the platform to the lifting carriage or forks.
  3. Do not use a forklift to elevate workers who are standing on the forks.
  4. Do not elevate a worker on a platform unless the vehicle is directly below the work area.
  5. Whenever a truck is used to elevate personnel, secure the elevating platform to the lifting carriage or forks of the forklift.
  6. Use restraining means such as rails, chains, or a body belt with a lanyard or deceleration device for the person(s) on the platform.
  7. Do not drive to another location with the work platform elevated.

 

Danger #5:  Failure to Inspect Or Perform Proper Maintenance

Finally, mechanical conditions or design features often cause or are an important contributing factor in serious and fatal forklift accidents.  Although the actual injury or fatality may have been caused by one of the first four dangers outlined above, the accident might never have occurred in the first place if adequate inspection and maintenance procedures had been followed.


What Can You Do?

The evidence is clear.  Forklifts can and do perform vital work every day without accident or injury.  The evidence is equally clear.  There are far too many serious and fatal accidents involving forklifts each year.  The decisions made in each workplace can make a big difference.  Set up your forklift safety policy and see that it is followed.