Falls, struck-by incidents and overturned machinery are the most common causes of injury and death in forklift operations, according to NIOSH. Many of these deaths and injuries can be prevented by ensuring machine operators are trained and the work area is safe.
- Routinely inspect the work area to make sure it is safe for forklift use. Hazards include blind corners, obstructed paths, improperly stored materials, or cracks in the floor or loading docks.
- Evaluate the intersections and blind corners in your workspace to determine whether dome mirrors would help improve visibility for workers on foot and who operate forklifts.
- Ensure workers in the area are aware of safe procedures when forklifts are operating.
- Whenever possible, separate vehicular traffic from foot traffic. Consider establishing certain aisles or walkways as “machine only” and “worker only.”
- Limit forklift use in times and places where employees are most likely to be on the floor, including the start and end of shifts, and near break rooms or time clocks.
- When foot traffic and forklift traffic are working simultaneously, be certain workers are aware of the forklift’s presence. Horns, back-up alarms and flashing lights should be used to alert workers of forklifts.
- Ensure forklifts are only operated by employees who have been extensively trained and licensed. Operator training should cover factors that can affect forklift stability, such as weight and symmetry of the load, speed of travel, operating surface, tire pressure, and driving behavior.
- In the event of a forklift turnover, employees operating sit-down forklifts should be instructed to remain inside and lean in the opposite direction of the overturn. Restraint systems can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities.
- Operators should be aware of the capacity of the forklift and be trained in how to handle unbalanced loads.
- If forklifts are used to lift employees, operators should know how to perform this act safely. Workers should never be lifted on the forks – only a secure lifting platform should be used for this purpose.
- Other workers should never be allowed to ride in or on a forklift unless there is a separate seat with a proper restraint available.