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Forklift accidents are no joke.
Each year, about 85 US workers are killed in forklift accidents. Another 34,900 people are seriously injured. Non-serious injuries stemming from forklift accidents affect another 61,8000 people annually.
According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 70% of all workplace accidents involving forklifts could have been avoided if businesses were more stringent about implementing training policies.
The Problem with Forklifts
The two biggest factors affecting the frequency and severity of forklift accidents is their size and speed. Forklifts weigh up to 9,000 pounds. That’s about three times as much as the typical passenger car. Plus, they can travel up to 18 mph.
You wouldn’t ask your employees to work in the middle of a busy city street. But many US workers are required to work side by side or at least in close proximity to heavy, fast-moving forklifts.
Compounding the problem is that forklifts are difficult to stop. Unlike cars and trucks, most forklifts only have brakes in the front. Plus, they are significantly heavier on the back end, where the counterweight is located. This type of uneven weight distribution can make these popular industrial vehicles very difficult to handle, even for experienced forklift operators.
Other Forklift Hazards
Another issue is steering. Unlike passenger cars and trucks, forklifts generally are turned by their rear wheels, causing their back ends to swing outward. This is a leading cause of tip-over accidents.
The most common type of forklift accident is the tip-over crash. This accounts for about 24% of all forklift accidents.
Another issue in driving a forklift is seeing where you are going. Forklifts carry their loads on the front forks and generally move in a forward direction. This can impair the ability of the operator to see where he or she is going. Obstructed views are another leading cause of forklift accidents.
Three Ways to Reduce Accidents
One of the simplest and fastest ways to prevent accidents is to keep pedestrians out of areas where forklifts are being used. Guardrails, fencing, traffic islands, and even bright yellow floor tape can create dedicated lanes that separate forklifts and people.
Another solution is to improve visibility by improving workplace lighting. More overhead lights or improved natural light lets forklift operators and pedestrians alike see each other better.
Finally, you can use proximity warning systems to let people know when forklifts are moving. Backup alarms, strobe lights, horns, and other warning systems can prevent potential collisions by raising awareness.