Extra Precautions Required When Operating Forklift in Public Area

backuphandle2The best rule of thumb for operating a forklift in public areas is simply: “Don’t Do It.”

The risk of property damage, injury to a pedestrian or worse are just too high. Whenever possible, schedule these type of jobs during hours when public areas are closed or blocked off from pedestrian and other vehicular traffic.

If that’s not possible, then try to use the forklift only during times when there are likely to be few other people around, such as overnight or the very early morning hours.

Lesson Learned the Hard Way

This basic forklift rule came too late for a construction company working on improvements to a children’s hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, last month.

A forklift operator was working on the first floor of the Children’s Hospital of the Royal University during regular business hours on Wednesday, October 28, when the vehicle accidentally pierced the window of a patient room, according to local news reports.

Fortunately, there were no patients in the room at the time. But the incident could have been disastrous because the room was scheduled to be used just moments after the accident occurred.

Create a Barrier

The best way to avoid a collision with persons or property is to create some sort of quasi-impenetrable barrier between the work zone and areas open to the public.

The best barrier is time: If you schedule work during times when areas are closed to the public, there is zero risk of somebody getting hurt or killed.

Physical barriers also will work. In the case of the Children’s Hospital, after the crash officials from Graham Construction — the contractor employing the forklift operator — installed a plywood safety barrier between all areas of the lower-level windows that face the construction site.

Safety Zones

A similar “control zone” also is being installed in a separate area that is not close to the hospital but where construction is going on.

The barrier puts a distance of about six feet between anywhere construction workers or vehicles will be working and public areas of the hospital.

Review Safety Measures Regularly

Two other important elements of forklift safety in or near public areas are education and supervision.

Safety meetings need to be held regularly so that rules and guidelines can be reviewed over and over again with forklift operators and other construction workers. There is really no such thing as too much safety education, so taking the time to go over safety measures with workers before every shift can pay huge dividends later if it helps to avoid injury or damage.

Worksite supervisors ultimately are responsible for any accident that involves their direct report employees during their shift. So managers need to effectively be everywhere at once to ensure that every member of their crew is following safety rules all the time.

Reputations at Risk

While thankfully nobody was hurt in this incident, the window was repaired, and the safety barrier was installed, the construction company’s reputation probably took the biggest hit in this incident.

Clients and the news media alike will be quick to blame whenever anything unfortunate happens. So it’s important that every step be taken to avoid accidents when forklifts are working in or near the general public.

 

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