Although they might look less dangerous than other pieces of heavy machinery, forklift accidents kill nearly 100 workers in the United States each year.
Forklift accidents are quite common across each sector of the industry, at a rate of about 20,000 accidents per year. This means that approximately one in every ten forklifts will be involved in an accident each year!
Additionally, victims of these accidents take on average 13 days off after the accident, which is five days more than the average time off for workplace accidents. What this indicates is that these incidents are potentially more serious than others in the workplace. Today, we will go over the top types of accidents and how to avoid them.
Forklift rollovers are the most deadly type of accident for forklift operators. These accidents can be a result of abrupt moves, quick turns, or unevenly balanced loads. The best way to avoid this type of incident is to decrease speed during operation, slow down more than you believe you need to on turns, and make sure that you do not exceed the lifting capacity of your forklift.
Additionally, it is crucial to wear your seatbelt! If a rollover is unavoidable, it is important to stay seated, brace yourself, and lean away from the point of impact.
The most common type of forklift incident involves pedestrians. This is no surprise, as forklift drivers often interact with other workers who are on foot whilst the forklift is in operation. These accidents usually happen because of careless driving.
Distracted, fatigued, or compromised driving is a huge risk, as a forklift is a dangerous and heavy piece of machinery, especially to something as fragile as the human body. It is important to install barriers, floor tape, and have signs and signals in the workplace to help keep drivers and pedestrians in their lanes.
Additionally, it is crucial to give drivers adequate breaks, so they feel more rested and focused when operating their machines.
Lack of operator training accounts for approximately 25% of all forklift accidents. OSHA mandates that each forklift operator must be certified to drive a forklift, and have their certification regularly updated.
However, that is not always the case. Oftentimes, drivers have not been formally trained or had their training refreshed. Luckily, training can be easily completed and comes with a very high return on investment for both the driver and the company.
Transporting raw materials or awkwardly shaped loads can be very challenging for forklift operators. They can be difficult to secure, and therefore prone to falling, which is a common cause of accidents that pose a risk to both operators and pedestrians.
Some of the most shocking falling loads can be seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTnGZ37sZqM. To help prevent these errors, ensure the load is centered, load backrests are being used, and that you use care when tilting the mast.
Crossing thresholds between different areas of a warehouse, docks, or boarding onto a trailer can be a dangerous operation for forklifts.
The flooring can be slippery or damaged, a truck or trailer can roll away, or an operator can make an error and misjudge distance.
To prevent these incidents, operators must inspect the flooring before driving, slow down before crossing any threshold, and ensure everything is locked into place before moving the forklift.
It is important to learn from other operators’ mistakes. To see some pretty devastating forklift errors, check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgpZ0eDKgww. Watching these incidents will help you understand how not to operate a forklift!
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