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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a special three-part, week-long series highlighting forklift safety in the workplace.
Every year in the US, an estimated 100 workers are killed in forklift-related accidents. About 20,000 workers are seriously injured ad another 34,000 suffer injuries that require them to visit an emergency year.
Among forklift fatalities, rollovers are the most common, accounting for about 25 of all deadly accidents.
While these statistics are shocking, what’s even more alarming is that many of these accidents could have been avoided had operators received the proper training on safe forklift operation.
Simple Rules to Ensure Forklift Safety
While there are many ways to make sure forklifts are always operated safely in order to reduce or eliminate the number of forklift accidents in the workplace, here are some of the most basic forklift safety rules drivers should always follow:
- Qualified Operators Only — Forklifts should only be driven by people properly trained to operate the vehicles safely. If an accident should occur in your workplace, investigators from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration will require you to provide documentation that you have trained and certified all operators — not just the one involved in the crash — in proper and safe forklift operations. If you can’t prove that you provided this training, you could be found to be in violation of federal workplace safety regulations.
- Appropriate Clothing — Operators need to be wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment when driving their vehicles. Depending on the work environment, this could include a hard hat, steel-toed shoes, and high-visibility jackets. The working gear must be reasonably fitted so that loose clothing can’t get snagged or caught on machinery or moving parts. Drivers also should not be allowed to driver their forklifts if they have any grease on their hands because this can cause them to slip off the vehicle’s controls and potentially cause an accident.
- Pre-Shift Inspection — Before the operator begins his or her shift, a pre-shift vehicle inspection should be performed. This should include an examination for any faults in the brakes, steering, controls, warning devices, mast and tires, at the very least. If any damage or problems are found, management should be notified immediately and the vehicle should be taken out of service until repairs can be made.
- Starting the Forklift — For safety purposes, the operator should use the vehicles step treads and hand grabs when positioning themselves inside the forklift. It’s not safe to jump into or out of a forklift, especially if the vehicle is moving. Before turning on the ignition, the operator should ensure that all of the forklift’s controls are well within reach and that the mirrors are in the appropriate positions. If they aren’t, the seat and mirrors should be adjusted. The driver should not fire up the forklift until they are properly seated with their seat belt secured and all the parts of their body safely inside the confines of the forklift’s operator’s cabin.