Forklift accidents are often responsible for creating costly delays, potential lawsuits, and stressful work environments. However, the human cost of forklift misuse is far greater. An estimated 85 people die annually from forklift accidents, according to OSHA statistics. Overall, nearly 100,000 workers are injured per year because of forklift misuse.
Nearly 35,000 serious forklift accidents happen annually according to OSHA. Almost half of those accidents take place in manufacturing facilities. Construction, warehouses, and transportation also see their share of forklift collisions. Some accidents are due to driver error. Inadequate training and poor forklift safety design also cause mishaps and injuries. Here is everything you need to know about forklift accidents and how to keep yourself and other employees safe in the workplace.
Types of Forklift Accidents
Accidents vary according to the kind of forklift and the work the forklift and driver are performing. Some forklift hazards are:
- Driving off a loading dock
- Falls between loading docks and trailers
- Falls from lift tines or elevated pallets
- Collisions with pedestrians
Why are Forklifts Dangerous?
Forklifts can be dangerous if used improperly. Forklifts are heavier in the rear to compensate for the heavy loads being carried in the front. This uneven weight distribution can make a forklift difficult to handle. Other reasons forklifts can be a dangerous piece of equipment:
- Forklifts can weigh up to 9,000 pounds
- Forklifts can travel up to 18mph
- Forklifts only have front brakes, making them harder to stop
- Forklifts are often used to raise hefty loads to considerable heights, a dangerous combination
HOW TO IMPROVE FORKLIFT SAFETY
Maintaining a clean jobsite will allow for safer use of all equipment including forklifts. Keep the floor/ground clear of debris, move large equipment, trash, workers’ personal items and any other potential hazards out of the forklift’s route. Narrow aisles, excessive dust and raised platforms are common workplace design problems that need to be kept in mind while planning a forklift route.
AVOID DANGEROUS BEHAVIORS WITH TRAINING
OSHA has found that nearly 70 percent of all forklift accidents could have been avoided by following correct training and policy. Human error is a common culprit behind forklift accidents. Adequate operator training is key in avoiding accidents. Forklift operators can accidentally drive forklifts off loading docks, carry unstable loads and tip over and strike a fellow employee around a blind corner, just to name a few potentially deadly circumstances.
Safe practices for drivers include:
- Loading the forklift so that operator visibility is not impaired
- Ensuring fellow workers in the area know there is an operating forklift nearby
- Avoiding excessive speeds
- Taking extra caution when coming around blind corners, doorways, and other areas of high foot traffic
Employees who are not involved in forklift duties still have a responsibility to keep themselves out of harm’s way. Here are some safety tips:
- Always keep a safe distance from the forklift
- Make eye contact with the driver if approaching a moving forklift
- Do not walk under raised forks
IMPLEMENT A SAFETY PLAN
Having a forklift safety program at your business helps keep your employees safe. The recommended forklift safety program includes regular vehicle check-ups and making sure that the equipment is only used for its intended purpose. Proper use of equipment is crucial to prevent accidents and ensure that your workspace remains safe. Taking the time to examine forklifts and determine that each forklift is up to date on breaking mechanisms, warning lights and mechanical features is paramount to keeping your workers safe. Using the proper equipment for the task at hand is key to keeping your workplace accident free. There are a variety of different forklifts for different needs, and it is key to use the right lift for the right task.