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Whether you are driving to work or driving a powered industrial truck at work, safety belt use is important each and every time you get behind the wheel.

Forklift operators should wear seat belts. Why? Analysis of forklift accidents reveals that the operators who were injured or killed were often not wearing seat belts. While seat belts can’t prevent accidents, they can prevent serious injuries and save lives. Here are three real accident reports that tell the story:

  • An employee was using a forklift to move waste material into a large, drive-in waste dumpster on the company’s outdoor loading dock. He’d just dumped a load and was backing out of the dumpster when he backed off the side of the loading dock, falling just under 4 feet to the pavement below. Since he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the forklift and was crushed under the truck’s rollover cage. He died 9 days later.
  •  An employee was driving an unloaded forklift down a ramp with a 13 percent slope when the forklift started to tip over. The operator attempted to jump clear, and the rollover protective structure (ROP) landed on him and killed him. The employee was not wearing the supplied seat belt.
  • A forklift operator drove his truck down a ramp rapidly and appeared to be attempting to make a sharp left turn. The forklift overturned. Apparently, the employee was unaccustomed to the quickness and sharp turning radius of the new forklift. He was also not wearing the provided seat belt, and when he fell from the seat, his head was caught under the overhead protective cage.

Why It Matters…
• As with any other kind of vehicle accident, wearing a seat belt while operating a forklift can minimize injuries and save lives
• The safest place for a forklift operator to be in the event of a rollover is strapped into his or her seat, protected by the ROP
• In case after case, investigators of forklift fatalities almost always list, “Ensure that all workers wear seat belts on forklifts” as one of the recommendations for preventing future accidents

What OSHA say about forklifts and seat belts:

“OSHA’s enforcement policy on the use of seat belts on powered industrial trucks is that employers are obligated to require operators of powered industrial trucks that are equipped with operator restraint devices, including seat belts, to use the devices. CSHOs [Compliance Safety and Health Officers] will enforce the use of such devices under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act.”

This citation can carry a penalty up to $13,260.00 per instance (can be cited multiple time on the same visit.) If the violator is a foremen or above can be upgraded to a willful citation with penalties up to $132,598. (Penalty amounts as of Jan. 23, 2019.)

Remember, we’re raising the bar on safety!

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