The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that one of the high risk occupations is forklift operation. They attribute 20,000 to 35,000 accidents every year to forklift operations. In the United States alone exists more than 850,000 forklifts with 85 fatal accidents per year. Therefore, adequate training is essential to operating a forklift and avoiding fatal injuries.
What causes forklift accidents?
- Work organization: this includes workers lack or improper training to operate forklift trucks, speed or stress, lack of proper tools, attachment and accessories, improper assignment of forklifts and operators, poor maintenance of forklifts and finally the age of the forklift.
- Behavioral and operational factors: travelling at excessive speed, riding with the load elevated, improper backing up techniques, turning, braking, parking and accelerating, lack of communication that a forklift is in use and finally inadequate forklift service.
- Workplace design: the workplace that uses forklifts must be designed in a way that is not hazardous and reduces the likelihood of an accident to the minimum. However, some designs of the workplace that can cause such accidents are narrow, crowded and cluttered aisles, impediment at intersections and doors, workplace conditions such as noise, toxic gases, dust or poor lighting, walking and working around the area in which a forklift is operated and finally a larger than usual number of ramps with different surfaces.
- Hazardous load: the loading area is the area that a forklift is mostly used. Therefore, it must be designed in a way that assures the safety and the security of the forklift operator and other workers. The hazardous conditions include poor stacking and piling, poorly repaired pallets, too heavy or unstable load and blocked vision.
- Mechanical conditions and design features: when we speak about mechanical issues, we usually refer to malfunctions and these include malfunction of brakes, steering, clutch, shift linkage or transmission, inadequate or lack of safety devices and blind spots, poor layout of control and displays.
Most forklift injuries occur when:
- Forklifts are driven off loading docks
- Forklifts fall between unsecured trailers and docks
- A person (pedestrian) is struck by a forklift
How to prevent forklift accidents?
- Create separate walk and travel ways for pedestrians and forklifts
- Impose safety restrictions
- Impose forklift travel speed limit
OSHA required standards
- The development and implementation of training programs by employers that cover the general principles of forklifts, the types of vehicles being operated, workplace hazards and the general safety requirement
- Formal and Practical training as pertained in federal regulation.
- Certification and evaluation of operators at least once every 3 years.
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