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Avoid These Common Forklift Mistakes

Workers investigate a workplace accident in which a cherry picker collided with a work platform. (Photo courtesy of New Zealand Defence Force via Wikimedia Commons)

Forklifts are one of the hardest working pieces of equipment in any workplace. But because of their weight, their size, and their speed, they also are one of the most dangerous.

Most accidents involving forklifts are entirely avoidable if operators simply slow down and pedestrians have more situational awareness when working near these powerful machines.

Here are some of the most common forklift mistakes that can lead to accidents -- and how to avoid them.

Working Too Quickly

Everybody is on a deadline. And forklift operators are no exception. Drivers want to get the job at hand done quickly so they can move on to the next task. Supervisors and managers want their fleet operators to knock out as much of the day's workload as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, forklifts and hurrying don't go together very well. Drivers under pressure to hurry up are more likely to make mistakes, such as not seeing a rack, a wall, or even a person. And because forklifts are so heavy and fast, even the slightest mistake can be costly, even deadly.

Operators should be encouraged to work efficiently, but not quickly. There's a difference. Drivers who are trying to do too much all at once are more likely to take shortcuts, make assumptions, and make mistakes.

Bosses should put less pressure on drivers while constantly encouraging and promoting workplace safety. A forklift accident will likely cost a business more than the benefits of getting the job done quickly.

Failing to Conduct Inspections

In the rush to get to work -- and to get out of work at the end of the shift -- many drivers will rush through or skip vehicle inspections altogether. This is a mistake.

Identifying problems with forklift mechanical issues is the best way to prevent them from growing into something bigger -- and more expensive.

Failing to Segregate Lanes

The easiest way to avoid collisions between pedestrians and machinery is to prevent them from ever meeting. Designated lanes for vehicle traffic and foot traffic can help avoid most accidental collisions.

The problem is that most businesses are limited in the amount of physical floor space they have. So blocking off valuable real estate for forklifts-only traffic lanes isn't always practical.

In this instance, a compromise may be the best solution. Designated walkways can be created in high-traffic areas or in spaces where there have been collisions -- or near-collisions -- in the past. In all other areas of the workplace, drivers and pedestrians can be made more aware of each other through the use of sirens, lights, signage, and other safety equipment.

Avoiding these common forklift mistakes will make your business safer, more efficient, and more profitable.