The need to optimize a company’s productivity combined with uncontrolled traffic and complex machinery, are all ingredients for accidents to happen in industrial environments. A warehouse can minimize injury risks and accidents, through strategic planning and providing adequate training programs. Here we provide a list of tips for preventing forklift accidents; these along with following safety standards can prevent damage to inventory and equipment while keeping employees safe and healthy. What are the most common causes of forklift accidents? Pedestrian accidents, irresponsible driving and tip-overs are the most common. Addressing these three causes can substantially reduce work place injuries.
Workers and Pedestrians Safety
The forklift driver is responsible to avoid pedestrians in their surrounding areas. Other workers do not always pay attention to their surroundings, even when there are adequate warning signs throughout the warehouse or the floor is clearly marked. Keeping in mind workers are not always alert and observant, and that pedestrians have the right-of-way just as they do when driving a car on the road, when the pedestrian steps in the path of a forklift it will help to prevent accidents.
The driver can avoid workers and pedestrians by being aware of what is in the path of the moving forklift – forward or backward; and the horn should always be used at all intersections and blind spots.
A good rule of thumb is to never let anyone near a forklift unless the person is the one operating it, even when the forklift is not moving.
When a high load blocks visibility, the truck needs to be driven backward. If not possible, a “spotter” should be the driver’s eyes. Confirm no workers are near the direction of travel and move the forklift slowly.
Never use the forklift to elevate another worker.
Never raise a load requiring another worker to hold or position the load while the forklift is in motion. This poses increased danger and the risk of injury.
Never let a worker walk under raised forks. This should also be the rule when there is no load on the forklift.
Address Irresponsible and “Horseplay” Driving
Supervisors need to address “horseplay” immediately. Drivers must understand not driving a lift truck responsibly breaks company rules, compromises safety, and puts themselves, other workers and pedestrians at risk.
A good policy is a no tolerance policy. Forklifts are very heavy, and often unstable. Even seasoned veteran drivers can make a mistake, so an operator driving in an intentional unsafe fashion should be disciplined and re-trained on proper forklift operation and safety.
Prevent Forklift Tip Overs
Of all forklift accidents, 14 percent are from tip overs.
Many forklift operators’ initial reaction is to jump off the truck when it tips over. Forklifts can weigh up to several tons making this a dangerous impulse by the driver and can cause serious injury, and in some cases death. Train employees to never jump off a forklift when tipping occurs.
Tips to Minimize Tip Overs
When Forklift is In Motion
- 1. Lower and tilt a load back to increase its stability.
- 2. Move loads slowly and carefully that are oddly shaped, tall or wide.
- 3. When forklift needs to be turned, reduce speed before turning, maintain a low speed and rotate the steering wheel slowly.
- 4. Do NOT move an unstable load.
When Forklift is Not in Motion
- 1. Never load a truck’s lifts over max capacity.
- 2. Loads should be kept low and tilt the mast back for stability. Note heavy loads can cause the forklift to tip over when angled too far forward or backward.
OSHA requires proper training of all drivers by a qualified forklift instructor to operate a forklift.
Conduct periodic assessments of all forklift operators to reinforce the risks involved and employees understand the dangers, and importance of forklift operation safety.
Include the ability for a worker to avoid forklift tip overs in all training demonstrations by the operator.
Be Carbon Monoxide Aware
Carbon monoxide is emitted from forklifts and all work areas must be properly ventilated. Poor ventilation can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The operator needs to:
- 1. Allow plenty of parking time.
- 2. Secure the forklift at the end of every shift.
- 3. Remove the key.
Performing these few simple steps consistently will help prevent an unauthorized operation and others from accidentally walking into the forklift.
OSHA and Forklift Maintenance
Forklift inspections are required to determine if a forklift needs servicing. This aids in preventing accidents and injuries. OSHA collects over $2 million yearly from organizations that fail to provide proper training to their workers, or that all machinery is maintained according to standards.
Work environment safety should always be at the forefront of every company; and following these recommended tips for preventing forklift accidents can lower the risks of injuries to workers and pedestrians tremendously.