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Just about any dock or warehouse manager can tell you that forklifts are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in any workplace. Because they are so big, heavy, and fast-moving, forklifts pose a very serious risk to the health and safety of pedestrians, materials, and even their own drivers.
According to recent statistics, forklifts account for about 85 accidents per year in the US, as well as an estimated 34,9000 injuries. Another 61,8000 minor injuries each year are caused by forklifts.
So every workplace that uses forklifts has a vested interest in keeping their employees safe.
Here are the five most common types of forklift accidents, as well as the best ways to prevent them from occurring in your workplace.
People Unaware of Forklifts’ Presence
Lift trucks coming around corners or driving through intersections unexpectedly can catch pedestrians and other drivers off guard.
An easy fix is to require drivers to use their horns more frequently, affix vehicles with warning lights and automated backup alarms, and using floor tape, signs, and other markings to designate danger zones.
Forklifts are top-heavy to begin with. But when they are carrying heavy, raised pallets, their center of gravity is even higher.
The key to preventing tip-over accidents is to slow down for turns. Turning a corner to fast when carrying a heavy load is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
Driving with a Raised Load
Unless the operator is placing a palletized load on an upper shelf, there usually is no good reason to drive with the load elevated. Raised loads make it hard to see, reduce the maneuverability of the forklift, and exponentially increase the risk of a tip-over accident.
Federal regulations require drivers to operate their vehicles with the load as low to the ground as is practical, usually about 4 inches from the road surface.
Going Too Fast
A lot of forklift drivers want to go fast because it lets them do more tasks more quickly. But fast-moving forklifts have less reaction time, which can easily lead to accidents.
Speed kills. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires forklifts to drive below 5 miles per hour. Posting signs to reinforce this speed limit can help slow things down.
Perhaps the biggest cause of forklift accidents is inexperience and ignorance. New, untrained drivers simply don’t understand the risks involved with operating heavy machinery in confined, populated spaces.
Don’t allow any of your operators to get behind the wheel until they have successfully completed a certified forklift training course. Then re-certify drivers at least once every three years.
It’s not just a good idea, it’s also the law.