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It was the finals of the forklift rodeo. The final driver had flawlessly completed the obstacle course and had beaten every other operator’s time by a solid 6.5 seconds. Because he was the last driver to compete, he crossed the finish line knowing that he had beaten the competition and would be crowned the champion.
As the vehicle rolled to a full stop, the excited driver unbuckled his seat belt, threw his arms into the air and jumped from his vehicle.
And lost the contest.
The judges penalized the driver for failing to use the proper three-point dismount. The lost points were enough to cost him the competition. In a moment’s thoughtlessness, everything he had accomplished was lost.
Forklift Safety Is No Laughing Matter
The driver was lucky it was only a competition that was lost, rather than an arm or a leg. Or even his life.
According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, forklift accidents are responsible for the injury of about 20,000 workers each year in the US, with about a quarter of those accidents resulting in serious injuries. And 100 US forklift accidents each year are fatal.
Forklift safety awareness begins from the moment a driver steps onto his vehicle. And it stops when the operator turns off the forklift, properly dismounts and is finished with the job.
Proper Mounting and Dismounting
As the forklift rodeo contestant illustrated, there’s a wrong way and a right way to get on and off a forklift safely.
With this in mind, here are the proper steps for getting on and off a forklift safely:
1. Always Face the Vehicle — Many operators prefer to jump off the vehicle. But if the floor surface is slippery, as is often the case in warehouses and manufacturing facilities, this is a surefire way to a slip and fall injury
2. Use Three Points of Contact — Either two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand should always be in contact with the vehicle at all times.
3. Wear Personal Protective Equipment — Oil-resistant, non-slip shoes should be worn whenever operating a forklift or other heavy machinery
4. Visually Inspect the Area — Before getting on or off a forklift, look to see that the floor around the cab is free of fluid or other debris that could cause you to slip and fall. If anything hazardous is there, get it cleaned up before entering or exiting the vehicle.
5. Check for Other Traffic — One of the most common causes of forklift-related injury is being struck by a moving vehicle. Other drivers may not see or you anticipate that you are going to step into their path. If you see another forklift or other vehicle approaching, wait until they are safely past before getting on or off your lift truck.
6. Seat Belt Safety — Whenever a forklift operator is seated within the cab, a seat belt must be worn. It doesn’t matter if the driver is only going to be seated there for a moment of if there are frequent stops in which the operator has to get on and off the vehicle. Seat belts must always be fastened, with no exceptions.
Following these six simple steps can greatly improve your chances of avoiding a forklift accident when mounting and dismounting your vehicle.