Forklifts, powerful heavy machinery, come in various sizes and can weigh between 9,000 and 30,000 pounds, depending on their make and model. The combination of their immense weight, limited stability, and tight turning radius poses a significant danger to both operators and bystanders. In the unfortunate event of a forklift-related incident, the risk of severe injury or even death is alarmingly high.
Here at SharpEagle, we’re all too familiar with the dangers that lurk from improper machine handling!
OSHA (Occupational Safety And Health Administration) states that forklift accidents claim the lives of approximately 100 workers each year. At the same time, around 95,000 individuals suffer non-fatal injuries that put them into serious recovery. These statistics not only bring immense hardship to the affected employees and their families but also impose substantial costs on employers.
Forklifts serve as powerful tools that provide workers in various industries with the ability to effortlessly move heavy loads. Their presence is vital for businesses to meet high demand without exposing workers to the risks of overexertion or back injuries. However, the immense power of forklifts also comes with a great responsibility, which is why OSHA has established specific regulations to ensure their safe operation.
These requirements include several rules! The age for operators sits at 18 years of age or older. Driving instructors must possess ample experience and directly supervise trainees during the learning process. Training programs themselves must incorporate both theoretical and practical parts, evaluating the trainees' performance at every step.
Drivers’ training should be customised to address the unique characteristics of the specific forklift and working environment. Employers are held responsible for engaging workers in training whenever there is an incident, near miss, improper forklift operation, assignment of a new operator, or changes in workplace conditions that put current status in danger.
Employers should conduct performance evaluations for every operator at least once every three years. All forklifts must have an identification plate displaying key safety data, such as vehicle weight and load capacity.
Operators must visually inspect the forklift before each use to ensure its proper functioning. They have to keep documented maintenance logs to track the maintenance and repairs performed on every machine. All operators are required to wear job-related personal protective equipment to safeguard themselves during forklift operations.
The Three Avoidable Dangers
- Improper handling or engaging in reckless behaviour with forklifts: This can result in catastrophic consequences. When forklifts are overloaded, poorly balanced, or driven with elevated forks, the risk of tipping over increases significantly. In such instances, workers may find themselves trapped beneath the overturned forklift, susceptible to severe injuries or even fatalities.
- Operating machinery without the protection of doors and railings: This lack of enclosure poses a significant hazard if the forklift topples sideways. To mitigate the potential for injury or loss of life, it is strongly advised that drivers utilise seat belts to prevent ejection from the forklift's cabin.
- Pedestrian safety: Due to the restricted visibility often experienced by forklift operators, extra precautions must be taken by all workers in areas where forklifts and pedestrians cross paths. Vigilance and heightened awareness of walkways and intersections are imperative to ensure the well-being of personnel in proximity to forklift operations.
How To Keep People Safe
Enhance workplace safety and mitigate risks associated with forklift operations by implementing the following essential guidelines for safe forklift operations.
Only Authorized Drivers
It is crucial to strictly prohibit unauthorised personnel from operating forklifts. The operation of forklifts demands specialised and thorough training tailored to the unique work environment and the specific type of forklift being used.
Proper Loading Practices
The importance of proper load management cannot be understated, as heavy or imbalanced loads pose significant hazards comparable to the forklift itself. To ensure a safe working environment, it is essential to meticulously stack and secure loads, preventing any potential shifting of materials during transportation.
Keep Clear of the Load in the Air
Maintaining awareness of the risks associated with elevated loads is vital for the safety of operators, pedestrians, and other workers. It is crucial to communicate and emphasise the potential hazards to all personnel. To mitigate the dangers, individuals should consistently maintain a safe distance from the front, sides, and underside of raised loads, ensuring their well-being at all times.
Use Only Appropriate Vehicles
Selecting the appropriate forklift tailored to the unique requirements of a particular environment is paramount. It is crucial to thoroughly assess and consider the occupational hazards, terrain characteristics, and environmental conditions that the forklift will encounter during its operation. By paying special attention to these factors, the most suitable forklift can be chosen, ensuring optimal performance and safety for the designated job.
Know Your Facility
Ensuring the safety of all workers, operators, and visitors requires proper communication regarding high-traffic areas and potential safety hazards. It is imperative to inform and alert individuals about zones with significant foot or vehicle traffic. Additionally, potential concerns such as inadequate lighting, reduced visibility, obstructions, slopes, corners, and loading docks should be identified and communicated to foster a heightened sense of awareness and precaution among everyone in the vicinity.
Inadequate visibility poses substantial risks to both forklift operators and pedestrians within the facility. To enhance safety, it is crucial to encourage the implementation of various measures that improve visibility. These can include the installation of guardrails, strategically placed mirrors, effective lighting systems, and other relevant safety features throughout the facility. Additionally, displaying safety posters at prominent locations serves as a constant reminder to workers and visitors about high-traffic areas and associated dangers, further reinforcing a culture of safety awareness.
Clear Away From Pedestrian Traffic
Despite diligent efforts, forklift accidents can still happen. However, the risks can be significantly reduced or even eliminated by implementing measures to separate forklift activity from pedestrian traffic. A practical approach involves establishing distinct aisles or pathways dedicated solely to workers on foot, separate from the areas designated for those operating forklifts and other equipment. By creating this clear separation, the potential for accidents and collisions between forklifts and pedestrians can be greatly diminished, fostering a safer working environment for all.
Forklifts pose significant risks in the workplace due to their weight, limited stability, and tight turning radius. Forklift accidents result in numerous injuries and fatalities each year, causing immense hardship for workers and their families while imposing substantial costs on employers.
To address these dangers, it is essential to adhere to OSHA regulations for safe forklift operation. If you want some extra layer of protection, you should definitely be looking at our light and safety camera solutions!
What are the primary risks associated with operating forklifts?
Forklifts pose significant risks due to their weight, limited stability, and tight turning radius. These factors can lead to severe injuries or fatalities in case of accidents, especially for both operators and bystanders.
How can workplace safety be enhanced concerning forklift operations?
Safety can be enhanced by ensuring only authorized drivers operate forklifts, adhering to proper loading practices, keeping clear of elevated loads, using appropriate vehicles for specific environments, prioritizing visibility, and separating pedestrian and forklift traffic.
What are the benefits of using safety cameras and lighting solutions in forklift operations?
Safety cameras and lighting solutions can help reduce the risk of accidents by improving visibility and awareness, especially in areas with limited sight lines or low lighting.
What are the key OSHA regulations for forklift operation?
OSHA regulations include age restrictions for operators (18 years or older), experienced driving instructors, comprehensive training programs, periodic performance evaluations, maintaining safety data and logs, and ensuring that all operators wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
How Forklift Drivers Can Enhance Facility Workers' Safety?
Forklift drivers can enhance facility workers' safety by adhering to training, conducting pre-operation inspections, practicing safe driving, maintaining clear visibility, using signaling devices, handling loads properly, respecting pedestrian zones, communicating effectively, following maintenance schedules, wearing appropriate PPE, participating in ongoing training, reporting unsafe conditions, and promoting a safety-first culture.