Each year about 100 forklift-related fatalities occur in the U.S. — most of which are avoidable. They occur due to operator complacency, poor judgement, or negligent behavior, all of which can be proactively addressed.
Begin by identifying poor behavior or common mistakes — essentially, why forklift safety is at risk and where the biggest risks may occur. Typically, when a fatality results, it is because a worker is crushed by an over-turned forklift or one that has fallen from a loading dock. Even this can be mitigated.
OSHA has regulations in place to help avoid forklift tip-over. Training is paramount. Employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate their lift-truck safely, and has successfully completed training and evaluation specified in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1).
OSHA requirements for forklift operation include:
- Drivers will check the vehicle at least once per shift. If an issue is found, it must be reported, and the vehicle locked out of service until it has been repaired.
- On all grades, the load and load engaging means shall be tilted back, if applicable, and raised only as far as needed to clear the road surface. The forks shall not be raised or lowered while the forklift is moving.
- Under all travel conditions, the truck shall be operated at a speed that will allow for safe stopping.
- The operator must slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is compromised.
- The operator is required to keep a clear view of the travel path.
- Unauthorized personnel aren’t be permitted to ride on powered industrial trucks.
- Forklift trucks can’t be driven up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object [29 1910.178 (m)(1)].
3 ways human error can impact operators & your fleet
Unfortunately, complacency and poor driver behavior can infiltrate without much warning. Though risk is inherent to operating a forklift, there are three common reasons risk increases and safety requirements are not upheld.
- Speed and reckless action or behavior
This can occur because of pressure to produce more in limited time, complacency or stress. Other reasons include poor communication during shared tasks/shared spaces, poor training, or drivers that simple decide that erratic behvior or horseplay is acceptable.
- Poor maintenance and safety checklist protocol
Forklifts must be maintained in order to operate safely. Failure to complete safety checklists and servicing/repairs as needed can increase risk of impacts or injuries.
- Improper load procedures
This is one of the greatest risks to your operators. Carrying a load that is too heavy, poorly stacked or piled loads on the pallet or carrying loads that block vision or are unstable increase operator risk of injury or death significantly.
Forklift accidents are common in a warehouse facility and so are the reasons they occur. Reducing risk starts with identifying risk factors in your facility, using real-time monitoring to track poor behavior or safety infractions, and addressing issues immediately before an accident occurs.