SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Forklift Safety – You Can Save A Life Today
This month I would like
to cover forklift safety.
Forklift accidents account for 61,800 minor
injuries, 34,900 serious injuries, and 85 forklift related
deaths every year, according to OSHA estimates. With
almost 900,000 forklifts in operation at any given time in
the U.S., those numbers amount to a 1 in 10 chance that
each forklift working in your facility will be involved in an
accident this year. That’s not great odds for the safety
record at your facility – someone at your facility could be
injured this year due to a forklift accident.
Forklift collisions account for about 46% of total forklift
accidents including crush injuries where personnel are
trapped between two forklifts, between a forklift and stationary
surface, or where pedestrians are struck by a forklift.
The numbers clearly show that the odds are against you
unless you take action to mitigate those risks. We all know
education is an important element in increasing safety, but
it works only as well as the training done and the attentiveness
of both drivers and pedestrians. More must be done in
key areas of collision prevention, traffic control and pedestrian
safety measures in order to reduce your risks.
Powered industrial equipment has greatly improved productivity
in manufacturing, warehouse and distribution
operations. Forklifts and hand trucks allow one employee
to do the work of several in moving large quantities of
materials and handling awkward loads. Storage space
usage has improved due to palletizing and the ability to
stack materials higher, utilizing more of the storage cube.
While all these benefits have improved materials handling,
the potential for serious injury and death has also
increased. The sheer mass of a forklift can be equivalent
to a full-size sedan, and although speeds are relatively low,
because of that dense mass, the potential for accidents is
a serious issue in the workplace. Fortunately, the frequency
of accidents is fairly low – but when an accident does
occur, it can have devastating results.
Because of this potential for accidents and injuries in
the workplace, it is important to institute safety measures
regarding forklift operation and employee safety. As you
implement these safety measures, you will find that forklift
safety is not just the operator’s responsibility. It also
includes pedestrians entering and working in forklift traffic
Federal and State OSHA programs have specific training
requirements. I am amazed that after 43 years in this field
where I have operated forklifts myself, inspected forklifts
as a state and federal OSHA compliance officer and have
written and implemented formal forklift programs and
now teach certified material handling courses for the companies
that I work for as a consultant and I now also act
as an expert witness when it comes to forklift accidents on
how much operators, supervisors and especially people
and managers do not know about the safety regulations
and how to operate these vehicles safely.
Here is a list of what an employer must do to ensure
that the operators are properly trained. If your company
follows these training requirements, you may just be able
to save a life as well:
Training Program Implementation
- First please ensure that the operator has read and understood the information that is found in the owners / operators manual. If they do not do this, they have not been properly trained.
- Trainees may only operate a powered industrial truck only under the direct supervision of persons who have
the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators
and evaluate their competence; and where such
operation does not endanger the trainee or other
- Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction
(e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer
learning, video tape, written material), practical training
(demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical
exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation
of the operator's performance in the workplace.
- All operator training and evaluation shall be conducted
by persons who have the knowledge, training, and
experience to train powered industrial truck operators
and evaluate their competence. Watch out if you use
online training for I have found that it usually is generic
in value and misses many important issues. Also you
have to ensure that the operator is still trained under
the guidance of a person who has knowledge in the
industrial truck that they are training the student on.
For more information on forklift operations and safety,
please read ANSI B56.1, read and understand the manufactures
owners / operators manuals and also read the OSHA
requirements that are found in 29 CFR 1910.178. This is
your best guidance for operating forklifts and other types of
vehicles safely. Should you have any questions, as always you
can reach me by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.