Workplace Solutions

Stay safe around forklifts

How can I prevent forklift incidents in the workplace?

Responding is Amy Ahn, marketing and web manager, Rosco Vision Systems, Jamaica, NY.

Forklift accidents are devastating – the mishaps often deadly. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries estimates that more than 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries involving forklifts occur in the United States every year.

With increased awareness and dedication to safety, forklift accidents in the workplace can be reduced and tragedies can be prevented. Below are five ways you can improve forklift safety at your workplace:

  1. Drive responsibly: Forklift operators should be trained in all proper driving procedures, such as reducing speed before turning to prevent tip-overs. Keeping loads stable and low helps vehicles remain upright. Forklifts should never be loaded above the maximum limit. Take extra care with oddly shaped loads; unstable loads should never be moved. Supervisors should discourage horseplay immediately and ban the use of headphones, cell phones and other electronic distractions. While everyone should enjoy their time on the job, safety is paramount on the warehouse floor.
  2. Keep pedestrians safe: Forklift drivers are responsible for avoiding other workers and pedestrians. For greater all-around visibility during operations, install backup cameras on forklifts. Employees sharing the floor space should be instructed to never walk beneath raised forks (even if there is no load). Further, pedestrians should never be in contact with a load while the forklift is moving. This is incredibly risky.
  3. Provide enough space: Smart supervisors assign separate travel paths for pedestrians and for forklift traffic. Forklifts require wide aisles, free from crowds and clutter. Pathways and doorways should be free of obstructions, and traffic volume should be limited. Supervisors also should manage workplace conditions such as noise, hazardous materials, dust and poor lighting.
  4. Maintain your machines: Forklift operators and supervisors should routinely check for brake, steering, clutch, shift linkage, transmission and mast assembly malfunctions. Forklift emissions should be at safe, non-toxic levels. Operators should be aware of blind spots and choose the proper safety devices to improve visibility, such as mirrors or backup cameras.
  5. Continue training: Safety procedures should be reviewed at least twice a year to keep all rules fresh in the minds of both forklift operators and other warehouse employees.

Safety procedures are never old news. Periodic assessments and trainings can help, as can immediately addressing issues of irresponsible behavior. It is critical that all employees understand the risks involved in working with and around forklifts to reduce the number of dangerous accidents.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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