Today is National Forklift Safety Day! Sponsored annually by the Industrial Truck Association, the day aims to reduce the number of forklift-related fatalities and injuries. Since the mass production of power lift trucks in the 1930s, forklifts have been a staple to countless warehouses, facilities, and construction sites. The average forklift weighs nearly 5 tons and can usually carry a load of 3,000 pounds. The sheer weight of these vehicles and their load poses a very serious, even deadly, risk in workplaces.
Coming in at number seven on the list, powered industrial trucks are one of the most cited violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of 2017. Violations can include improper training, having unsafe forklifts onsite, and not refreshing workers on safety procedures, a recipe for disaster. OSHA estimates there are nearly 100,000 serious and non-serious forklift injuries annually, and the majority of these accidents could be avoided with proper training and implementing safety procedures. On National Forklift Safety Day, we present the most common hazards a forklift can pose and how to respond:
Forklift Overturn — Overturns are the leading cause of forklift fatalities in the workplace, and can happen for a variety of reasons: taking sharp corners, travelling at too fast a speed, or carrying a load incorrectly. To prevent a forklift from overturning, train operators how to properly secure a load on the forks and the load capacity of the vehicles in your warehouse, and what to do if a forklift overturns. While most would assume to jump from the cab, workers should stay properly strapped into the forklift.
Additionally, consider investing in added visual communication to prevent forklift accidents. these signs can be for both forklift operators and pedestrians. Post signs that inform works of the speed limit, to warn of blind spots, or indicating maximum load capacity.
Worker Struck by Forklift: OSHA requires anyone who will be using a power lift truck to receive training, but one should consider training everyone in the workplace on forklift safety to avoid struck-by accidents. Teach workers on where blind spots are for forklift drivers and ensure those who will be in the vicinity are visible with hi-vis or reflective safety vests.
Another strategy to avoid workers being hit or reduce vehicle accidents is using industrial floor tape. Unlike industrial floor paint, floor tape can be installed without disturbing work flow or waiting for paint to dry. Industrial tape is also extremely durable and will not crack under heavy traffic or fade over time. Yellow floor tape can be put down to identify efficient lanes for forklifts and establish traffic control. You can also create pathways specifically for pedestrians to keep foot and vehicle traffic separate.
Falls from a Forklift: If a driver falls from the operator cab or from the raised forks, they are at risk for serious injury. In training, emphasize only one worker is allowed in the cab, employees should not offer rides, and seatbelts are always required. If you will be using a forklift to lift workers, you must have an approved personnel lifting platform. Ensure the model of your forklift has the proper safety harnesses or safety belt or add one if it is missing or the current system is faulty.
In addition to training, employers are required to provide the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep your employees safe. This will include a hard hat and seatbelt but can also include additional fall protection measures.
On this year’s National Forklift Safety Day, remember the number of dangers that come from such a common piece of machinery. Remind your workers today on best forklift practices and start making your facility safe for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.