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Over the last 10 years, cell phone usage in road vehicles has gone down substantially. It is now illegal in ten states (as well as the U.S. territories) to talk while driving, and laws against texting are even more stringent. Obviously, when you operate your forklift on a public road, you have to follow the general traffic guidelines. However, there are no laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while operating a forklift on a private work site.
The dangers of using cell phones at a private work site
It may not be illegal, but there are many reasons why companies should prohibit forklift operators from using cell phones at the work site. While on the phone, a driver is considerably less likely to complete basic safety steps. For example, if you are on the phone, you may be less inclined to look behind you when driving in reverse. With one hand on the phone, your mobility is also hindered. In certain workplaces, only personal calls are prohibited, but this is also ineffective since no matter who you are talking with, using a cell phone while operating a forklift is a dangerous procedure. It is acceptable to carry a cell phone for usage in a safety emergency, but it is in a company’s best interest to ban operators from using them while driving.
One issue with forklift safety is that people might think that because there is a safety director present, they are exempt from taking personal responsibility. This is not the case. Everyone must show responsibility and work toward promoting workplace safety. This means talking on cell phones only in dire emergencies, and limiting any potential distractions. Food, drink, and music should be used responsibly, and a good rule of thumb is that any item that did not come with the forklift should probably not be taken into the vehicle. If you do need to bring items into the forklift, make sure that there is adequate storage.
In the end, safety is only achieved when everyone plays an active role in enforcing it. Limiting (our banning) cell phone usage and avoiding distractions are crucial components in a safe workplace environment.