Increasing Safety Through a Forklift Rodeo Competition

One of the fastest, easiest and most effective ways to promote safety among your forklift operators is to pit them against one another in a forklift rodeo competition.

backuphandle2Forklift rodeos have long been used to test drivers’ skills while at the same time encouraging a culture of safety, and even improving employee morale and team-building.

A growing number of companies are sponsoring the events, which can be held before, during or after work hours.

During the events, forklift operators are pitted against one another in a series of driving skill tests. Some include obstacle courses that drivers need to navigate safely, with the fastest time being declared the winner. Others involve hoisting basket balls or other objects to a predetermined height or loading and unloading imbalanced pallet loads without spilling anything.

Both Fun and Educational

The events can be fun, motivating and even inspirational. Most importantly, they encourage forklift operators to always operate their vehicles in the safest way possible, reducing the number of workplace accidents, saving lost or damaged product, and eliminating employee injury.

How effective? Just ask the employees of the Domtar paper mill in Ashdown, Arkansas, where 122 employees recently participated in the company’s annual forklift rodeo for the 14th consecutive year.

While there could be only one rodeo champion — forklift operator Randy Norwood — the annual event called attention to the safe operation of forklifts year round.

And the results have paid off. The Pulp and Paper Safety Association of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, recently named Domtar’s Ashdown facility as the safest mill in its large mill category for 2013.

Tips for Hosting a Forklift Rodeo

If you are going to sponsor a forklift rodeo or another competitive event to promote safety among your employees, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Determine which departments can participate and try to include as many people as possible. The more competitors, the more fun the even will be for your employees.
  • Make sure the safety metrics used for scoring are clearly expressed and understood by the participants.
  • Launch the contest as broadly as possible. Some forklift rodeos invite participants from branches in an entire region, or even bring together workers from other companies to participate.
  • Communicate the “standings” regularly. This helps increase competition and boost employee morale.
  • Announce winners publicly. The more you can publicize your event with the release of press releases, inviting media coverage and other publicity-seeking, the more it will mean to your employees.

Employee Recognition and Rewards

The prizes awarded to the winner don’t have to be large or elaborate, although there should be some sort of reward for winning. Something as simple as a gift certificate to a local restaurant or a paid day off from work is enough to recognize the achievement of the winner. The pride of having been named the best forklift driver is recognition enough.

When you sponsor a company-wide forklift rodeo each year, it gives employees something to look forward to and talk about all year round. And the more your employees are talking about workplace safety, the better.



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