There is one common denominator in all of these accidents: improperly trained forklift operators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 25 percent of all forklift accidents are caused by insufficient or poor training.
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This is a glaring oversight that could save many workers’ lives each year. While employers should never stop providing proper training to their employees, they also must make sure they’re investing in adequate safety measures as well.
Operator Training – OSHA requires all industrial lift operators to be properly trained before they can operate the equipment. This includes being familiar with the company’s established safety policies and procedures and knowing when to take a break from the machine.
Pedestrian Impacts – Almost half of all forklift accidents involve pedestrians being struck by the forklift or the truck’s load. This is often the result of inattention, fatigue or carelessness from the driver.
Traveling Too Fast – Forklift drivers often drive too fast, which shortens their reaction time. This can lead to a tip-over or rollover accident.
Operating in Dangerous Areas – Lift trucks are designed to work in cramped areas, where they may not be able to stop as quickly or safely. Forklift drivers should not only be aware of their surroundings, but they should also use their seatbelts and honk their horn to warn other drivers when approaching blind spots or intersections.
Failing to Wear the Required Safety Equipment – Forklifts should be equipped with a seat belt, a protective vest or helmet and a fire extinguisher. They should also have a warning system and alarm that emits an audible or visual signal when an issue occurs, such as malfunctioning equipment or a collision with another vehicle.
Forklifts should also be regularly inspected and serviced to ensure they’re functioning correctly. If they’re not, it’s recommended that you pull them from service until the problems are addressed.
Overloading – A forklift’s capacity must be carefully monitored to avoid overloading the truck. Overloading can cause the truck to overheat, fail to control its speed and potentially tip over. The operator and other people on the premises can be severely injured or killed if loads fall off the truck.
Damaged Loads – If a load is damaged, the operator should take care to secure it. If it is a pallet, for instance, the load must be wrapped or banded so that it doesn’t come loose.
Pedestrian Injuries – A forklift’s size, weight and high visibility can all pose a serious threat to people walking or riding in the path of a forklift. If a pedestrian is near the truck, the driver must slow down and stop until they can make eye contact.
While all these types of injuries can be severe, it is important to note that the majority of them are preventable. Proper forklift operator training is the most important step an employer can take to protect its workers and their loved ones from accidents.