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We all know how dangerous forklifts are, which only makes forklift safety that much more important. In the past, we’ve discussed the many safety responsibilities of the forklift operator, including the importance of using the horn and maintaining awareness of the rear tail swing. Certainly, there is no doubt that these are essential components of forklift safety, but one oft-neglected aspect of forklift injury prevention concerns the responsibilities of the pedestrian. After all, while it is true that operators are routinely trained before handling a forklift, it is less common for pedestrians to receive adequate injury prevention training. One such responsibility of the pedestrian concerns the forklift fall zone. In this article, we review the importance of the forklift fall zone and what pedestrians can do to ensure that they don’t suffer an injury at the hands of a falling load.
What is the forklift fall zone?
The forklift fall zone refers to the area that the pedestrian should leave between them and the lift truck. The fall zone helps make sure that the pedestrian does not get injured in the event that cargo was to fall from the lift truck. Standing under a raised fork is a recipe for disaster, and even if one is wearing a hard hat, they can easily suffer a serious (or even fatal) injury. The consensus holds that the fall zone should be two times the size of the height of a carried load. This means that if the load were carried to a height of six feet, the fall zone should be 12 feet. These diameters are an inexact science, so pedestrians should leave more space as they see necessary and always air on the side of caution.
Other safety precautions
In addition to implementing a fall zone, pedestrians should make sure that they maintain eye contact with forklift operators, ensuring that their presence is acknowledged. It is also helpful to establish zones that are forbidden to pedestrians; clear organization of the warehouse space makes everyone aware of one another’s presence, leading to injury prevention. Another simple yet helpful policy is to wear protective clothing; reflecting vests should be worn to maximize visibility. The warehouse should also contain signs warning operators and pedestrians alike, and it is also useful to set up convex mirrors, which go a long way toward improving visibility.
The importance of the fall zone should go unquestioned, but suffice to say that 8% of forklift-related fatalities occur as a result of being struck by falling materials. Implement a fall zone, wear protective clothing, and use clear and effective communication to ensure that you do everything in your power to prevent a forklift-related injury.