Preventing Forklift Accidents

 

Forklift instability can lead to injury or even death. (courtesy: Trashertown at flickr.com)

Forklift instability can lead to injury or even death.
(courtesy: Trashertown at flickr.com)

There are a plethora of problems that can contribute to forklift accidents from the manner in which a warehouse is operated to the manner in which the operator drives the lift.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) there are 85 forklift fatalities and 34,900 forklift-related serious injuries each year. Types of accidents run the gambit from forklifts tipping over to lifts striking a surface or vehicle.

Accidents can be avoided as long as the driver of the lift has been properly trained in its operation; that certain precautions are taken when designing the warehouse; and that distribution of the load and design features of the forklift are taken into account when driving a lift.

Behavioral issues to consider when operating a forklift include:

· Excessive speed.
· Driving with the load elevated.
· Inappropriate back up methods.
· Improper turning, breaking, or accelerating.
· Inadequate warnings to others concerning forklift use nearby.
· Bad communication between the forklift operator and other employee when sharing an assignment or space.
· Parking the lift inappropriately.
· Inconsistent operation of the lift.
· Incompetent servicing of the forklift.

Moreover, managers need to consider forklift operations when designing a warehouse. This can include:

· Proper width of the aisles.
· Preventing clutter in the aisles.
· Avoiding barriers at intersections and doors.
· Volume of traffic.
· Walking or working in areas where forklifts are used.
· Workplace conditions including lighting and slippery surfaces.

The forklift operator can avoid accidents when taking into account:

· How items are stacked or piled on the pallet.
· The condition of the pallets.
· The weight of the load.
· The stability of the load and whether it is obstructing vision.

The operator of a forklift should have a full understanding of how the forklift works and how to maintain it. This knowledge can prevent all sorts of accidents caused by the mechanical condition or design of the forklift. These issues include:

· The proper function of brakes, steering, clutch, shift linkage, transmission, and mast assembly.
· The proper condition of the hydraulic system and transmission.
· The condition of safety devices to ensure proper operation.
· Emissions from the forklift.
· Blind spots or obstructions on the lift that block the driver’s view.
· Poor layout of controls and displays.

An experienced forklift operator knows what a forklift can or can’t do and also knows how an addition to a forklift can adversely affect its safe use. So he should be responsible for deciding what accessories would be appropriate to add to a lift. This is because:

· Attachments can influence the operating clearance by extending the length and width of a lift.
· Attachments can add weight to a lift and change its capability.
· Attachments can change the stability and center of gravity of a lift.

Managers of warehouses can enforce rules concerning pedestrian activity in the workplace that can help minimize and even eliminate accidents. These rules can include:

· The separation of pedestrian and forklift traffic by creating designated walkways and driving ways.
· Restricting people from work areas where forklifts are used.
· Requiring pedestrians to alert the forklift driver that they are in a work area.
· Requiring the forklift driver to sound his horn at intersections.
· Restrict pedestrians from walking under or near a raised forklift.
· No driving of forklifts near pedestrian high traffic areas like the lunchroom, time clock, entrances and exists.

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