Forklifts are extremely useful workplace vehicles, as long as they are used safely and appropriately by operators who are appropriately trained and competent to use them. Forklifts can be dangerous: they account for 25% of injuries at work. Many workplace accidents involve people being hit or run over by forklift trucks (typically when the forklift is reversing) because the driver did not see them. Owing to their size and weight, injuries resulting from forklifts are generally very serious.
In fact, OSHA statistics indicate that there are roughly 85 forklift fatalities and 34,900 serious injuries each year, 42 percent of which come from the operator being crushed by a tipping vehicle (ohsonline.com).
However, forklifts can become very dangerous if operated by a reckless or untrained operator. All operators should receive safety training prior to being allowed to operate a forklift. These accidents can be avoided if operators use some common sense and follow safe operating procedures. Do not operate a forklift until you have been properly trained and authorized to do so.
Here are a few common safety rules to follow during forklift operation:
1. Use the seat belt. It will keep you secured in the seat in the unplanned event of a tip over.
2. A parked forklift should have the forks flat on the floor with the controls set to neutral and with the parking brake set.
3. A forklift is considered to be “unattended” if the operator is more than 25 feet away or if the forklift is out of the direct vision of the operator. Unattended forklifts should be parked with the power turned off.
4. When operating the forklift on inclines, the load should always be on the uphill side of the incline. Drive forward going up the incline. Drive backward going down the incline.
5. When traveling without a load on the forks, keep the forks approximately four to six inches off the floor.
6. Never allow anyone to walk underneath a raised load.
7. Stop at all blind corners to check for other traffic in the area. This includes other forklifts and pedestrians. Honk your horn and look before you proceed.
8. If carrying a tall load that blocks your forward vision, drive in reverse and turn your head so you can see where you are going.
9. If operating around other forklifts maintain a three-forklift length distance between forklifts and never attempt passing.
10. Never drive a forklift up to the back of a person who is unaware that the forklift is behind them.
Forklifts, skid steer loaders, compact dumpers, dump trucks and tractors are all especially prone to overturning.
- There are many reasons vehicles overturn. They include:
- Travelling on slopes that are too steep
- Going over slippery surfaces (such as oil or grease patches)
- Going over soft or uneven ground, curbs, steps or other edges
- Being overloaded or unevenly loaded
- Going too fast, especially around corners
- Not being suitable for the task
- Carrying loads at a dangerous height (i.e. with a lift truck load fully raised)
- An ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System – such as roll cages or rollbars) can reduce the risk of injury if a vehicle overturns, but are not effective unless the driver is also wearing a suitable restraint (e.g. a seat belt). Drivers have been killed when vehicles fitted with an ROPS and restraints overturned, because they were not wearing the safety belt provided.
- Drivers should be trained to follow safety procedures, wear proper seat restraints, rollover procedures, spot hazards and avoid them.
- The driver should never try to jump out of a vehicle that is falling over.
Remember, we’re raising the bar on safety!