Many workers fail to realize the dangers associated with operating a forklift or lift truck, or simply being in the presence of one. Forklift safety is important to all workers, not just the people who are using them. Here are some forklift safety tips to help you protect all workers from unnecessary injury.
Forklift Safety Tips for Reducing the Risk to Facility Workers
The Truth About Forklift Accident Statistics
Forklifts are incredibly pieces of heavy equipment. Depending on the make and model, they can range from 9,000 to 30,000 pounds. Couple the extreme weight with their lesser degrees of stability and a tighter turning radius, and both operators and bystanders are at risk of serious injury or fatality in the event of a forklift-related incident (Safety and Health Magazine).
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), around 100 employees are killed every year in forklift accidents and as many as 95,000 experience non-fatal injuries resulting in days away from work. Not only does this result in extreme hardship for the affected workers and their families, but it also results in expensive direct and indirect costs to employers.
Direct costs include:
- Increased worker compensation costs
- Increased medical expenses
- Increased legal costs
- Regulatory fines for non-compliance
Indirect costs include:
- Cost of hiring and training new employees
- Increased overtime costs
- Lost revenue and productivity
- Decreased team morale
- Decreased customer satisfaction
- Damage to company reputation
OSHA Forklift Rules
Forklifts are powerful tools that enable workers from many industries the ability to move large loads with little effort. Without them, businesses would never be able to keep up with high demand without putting workers at more risk of injury due to overexertion or back injuries. With such great power, comes great responsibility, and that's why OSHA has very specific regulations regarding the safe use of powered forklifts. Some of those requirements include:
- Operators must be 18 years of age or older.
- Trainers must be experienced and directly supervise trainees.
- Training must include formal and practical instruction and evaluation of performance.
- Training must be tailored to the specific characteristics of forklift and working environment.
- Employers must engage workers in refresher training any time there is:
- An incident or near miss
- Any improper forklift operation
- New operator is assigned to forklift
- Workplace conditions change
- Employers must hold performance evaluations for every operator every three years.
- All forklifts must have an ID plate showing vehicle weight, load capacity and key safety data.
- Operators must visually inspect forklift prior to each use.
- Operators must keep documented maintenance logs.
- Operators must wear job-related PPE.
For more advice on proper materials handling and storage related to forklift use, please refer to OSHA's General Industry standard 29 CFR 1910.178 for powered industrial trucks.
3 Common Forklift Dangers That Can Be Avoided
As with any piece of heavy equipment, improper use or horseplay can lead to disastrous results. When forklifts are overloaded, not well balanced, or if a driver travels with the forks too high, the machine can tip over. Any time this occurs, the worker can be pinned under the forklift or sustain other injury or even death.
Unlike cars or trucks, forklift drivers are not fully enclosed with doors and rails. This can pose a problem to drivers in the event the equipment tips over on its side. To minimize risk of injury or death, it's recommended that drivers wear seat belts to prevent them from being ejected from the forklift's cage.
Another common danger associated with improper forklift use is danger to pedestrians. Operators of forklifts often have limited view, so all workers must pay special attention to walkways and areas where forklift and pedestrians intersect.
Forklift Safety Tips to Improve Worker Safety in Your Facility
To reduce the dangers associated with forklift traffic in your workplace, start with these seven tips on safe forklift operating procedures.
1. Only Authorized Workers Should Operate Forklifts
Do not allow unauthorized workers to operate forklifts. Forklift operators require special and extensive training specific to the workplace and the type of forklift they will be operating.
2. Carry Loads Properly
Heavy or unbalanced loads can be just as dangerous as the forklift itself. Be sure to stack and secure loads properly to avoid material shifting during travel.
3. Stay Clear of Raised Load
Warn operators, pedestrians and other workers about the dangers about being near a raised load. Steer clear of the fronts, sides and underneath of raised loads at all times.
4. Use Appropriate Forklift
Many environments require a specific forklift designed specifically for the conditions it will be used in. Pay special attention to occupational hazards, terrains and environmental conditions when choosing the forklift for the job.
5. Know the Territory
All workers, operators and visitors must be advised of high-traffic zones as well as any potential safety concerns such as dim lighting, poor visibility, obstructions, slopes, corners and loading docks.
6. Make Visibility a Priority
Poor or limited visibility can be dangerous to both operators and pedestrians. Promote the use of guardrails, mirrors, lighting and other safety features that can help improve visibility and safety throughout your facility. Safety posters can be also placed around the facility to remind workers and visitors of high traffic areas and their dangers.
7. Steer Clear of Pedestrian Traffic
Even with the best of intentions, forklift accidents still occur. Reduce or eliminate these risks by keeping forklift activity separate from pedestrian traffic by creating separate aisles for workers on foot and those on equipment.
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