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Inspecting forklifts for damage, broken or missing equipment, and other safety issues isn’t just a good idea that can prolong the life of your vehicle and make it safer to use around workers at your business.
It’s also the law.
Companies that use forklifts — whether they are owned or leased — are required to perform regular inspections in order to make sure their vehicles are running safely, properly, and efficiently. If they fail to conduct regular inspections, they could be subject to fines, safety citations, and even public embarrassment.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
A seafood company in Washington State recently found this out the hard way after being hit with more than $117,000 in fines for failing to regularly inspect its forklifts.
During an inspection at a seafood processing plant operated by Ocean Gold Seafoods Inc., of Westport, Washington, investigators from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries found that the forklifts had problems such as broken horns, inoperable seat belts, and other serious safety issues. Investigators also observed drivers not wearing seatbelts at all.
One of the forklifts inspected had a seatbelt that was pulled out completely and wouldn’t retract. Another did not have a working horn, which prevented drivers from notifying other workers of their presence in areas of the facility with low visibility.
In total, the company was cited for nine safety violations, one of which — drivers not wearing seatbelts — was a repeat violation. The company previously had been cited for the same issue in August 2015, according to a Washington L&I news release.
Multiple Forklift Violations
Other violations included failure to ensure emergency brakes were set on unattended forklifts; defective stair treads; exposed electrical wiring; equipment and clutter stored in front of control panels, exposing workers to fall hazards; and unsafe use of extension cords.
“Forklifts are among the most hazardous vehicles in the workplace, with a great risk of injury and death if they’re not maintained and operated safely,” the state workplace safety agency stated. “Employers who knowingly and repeatedly expose workers to unsafe forklifts may face stiff penalties.”
The leading cause of death among forklift operators is being crushed by a forklift that is tipping over. Wearing seatbelts help keep drivers inside the cab so they can’t be thrown from the vehicle or fall under heavy forklift parts in the event of a tip-over accident.
The company has 15 days to appeal the state agency’s findings. In Washington, money paid as a result of safety citations is put into a special fund that helps supplement the state’s pension fund for injured workers and the families of workers killed on the job.