Forklifts allow one employee to do the work of several by moving large quantities of materials and handling awkward loads. With the benefits of improved materials handling, the potential for serious injury and death also increases. The sheer mass of a forklift can be equivalent to a full-size sedan and, although speeds are relatively low, that mass makes the potential for accidents a very serious issue in the workplace.
Fortunately, the frequency of accidents is fairly low; however, when an accident does occur, it can have devastating results. Forklift safety is not just the operator's responsibility. It also requires pedestrians entering and working in forklift traffic zones to be safe.
Just think about how many workers are injured each year as a result of forklift misuse. Most would say "too many," but to put a number to it, the total number of injuries per year including non-serious, serious, and fatalities is 96,785 according to OSHA. That's very nearly 100,000 workers injured per year due to improper training or sheer carelessness on the job. Compared to the estimated number of forklifts in the United States (855,900) that means that each year, more than 1 in 10 forklifts are involved in an accident.
Powered Industrial Truck training is a necessity to operate a forklift both safely and legally. All operators must complete a training program that includes training on both Truck related topics and Workplace related topics (29 CFR 1910.178(l)(3)). Along with the training, all forklifts are required to have a daily inspection completed at least once a day.
Most of the time, a Forklift driver's field of vision is obstructed by the mast, by the load itself or by dusty or misty driving conditions. Additionally, drivers are often focused on load stability and making sure it arrives in one piece, so it's a pedestrian's job to ensure they are visible to drivers. To do this, pedestrians should:
1. Make eye contact with the forklift driver before proceeding into his traffic path. Confirm the driver sees you by waiting until he acknowledges your eye contact in some way.
2. Understand equipment limitations by knowing that forklifts have long stopping distances. They also have limited maneuverability when driven in reverse, due mainly to the position the driver must operate from when in reverse.
3. Never assume a driver can see you. Stay in marked pedestrian lanes and crosswalks to prevent being hit by a forklift, unless pedestrians are expected to share the aisle ways.
4. Yield the right of way unless you are sure the driver has seen you and stopped the forklift so you can cross.
Forklift safety is a team effort. Keep workers and work zones safe, and remember...
Be alert today, Be alive tomorrow!