National Forklift Safety Month
Did you know June is National Safety Month? Even more importantly, June 14 is National Forklift Safety Day. Workplace safety is always a critical issue, but during June we join the National Safety Council (NSC) in their annual observance to help “keep each other safe from the workplace to anyplace” and the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) in their mission “to enhance the safety of forklift operators and those who work around forklifts.”
“It's an opportunity to emphasize the critical importance of operator training, to promote greater pedestrian awareness, and to share resources about safe practices in the industries that use this indispensable material-handling equipment.”
Common workplace hazards for forklift safety
Every workplace, whether it’s a lumberyard, warehouse, farm, or factory, has its own unique set of trouble spots. The following is a list of common workplace hazards we have identified that present dangers to forklift operators and people working around forklift traffic. Use it to identify and mitigate the forklift safety hazards in your facility. You can also download this helpful checklist from the ITA
Forklifts do not stop quickly under ideal conditions. If an aisle is slippery from moisture, oil spray or a spill, or if you’re outside in rain, snow, or ice, the truck will take even longer to stop. Also, your forklift may skid or swerve on a slippery surface. The safe thing to do is SLOW DOWN!
Unlike our roads and highways, most workplace aisles are not marked with stop or yield signs. Intersections may have obstructed views and, when traveling forward, the forklift load crosses into the intersection before the operator does. The best way to avoid collisions is to slow down and approach intersections cautiously, use horns, lights, or other warning devices, and, depending on the load, travel in reverse. Training all personnel to exercise caution and stay in marked areas is another important step.
Forklift operators aren’t the only ones at risk for death and injury. About 36% of forklift-related deaths are people other than operators. Other workers can be hit or run over by forklifts. Considering how heavy forklifts are and the fact that they’re carrying hefty loads, pedestrians don’t fare well in these accidents.
Pedestrians must be aware and exercise extreme caution where forklifts are present. And, a forklift operator needs to be always mindful of other workers, especially when their sightlines are obstructed. That means using safety features like lights, horns, and warning sounds to alert pedestrians of their approach. It also means moving at a speed that makes stopping feasible.
Forklifts are very sensitive to imbalances. Their wheelbase is relatively narrow, and they carry heavy loads up front. A load that is heavier on one side than another can cause a forklift to tip over to the side. Turning while carrying an elevated load or carrying too heavy a load can cause accidents as well.
Tip overs are the most common type of fatal forklift accident, accounting for 22% of fatalities a year. Forklift operators can reduce the risk of such an accident by being mindful of the truck’s load capacity, plus the load’s total weight, distribution, and center of gravity. Read this previous blog article, Carrying the Load, for more information.
Uneven or rough surfaces
As noted above, forklifts are sensitive to imbalance and can tip over causing a hazard for the operator and nearby pedestrians. In outdoor environments, ruts and potholes cause problems. Inside a facility, broken-down floors often contribute to an accident.
Forklift operators need to be mindful of these hazards and proceed with caution. They may even need to use another route if the hazard is too much for the truck to handle.
Blocked aisles or roadways
In a perfect world no one would leave boxes in an aisle or a pallet on the loading zone, but most workplaces are not perfect. For their own safety then, the responsibility falls on the forklift operator to regulate speed and watch out for unexpected roadblocks. But, training your entire team that these careless mistakes might cost someone their life raises awareness and compliance.
Loading docks are especially treacherous primarily because they are busy. Trucks coming and going, foot traffic, multiple forklifts in operation, often pallet jacks and other equipment moving in and out as well.
Then, there are edges that drop off at height to watch out for and ramps that require the operator to adjust the tilt of the load. And, since the center of gravity may have shifted in transport, operators must be observant of potential uneven and unsafe loads as they are unloading containers, trucks, or flatbed trailers.
One the major hazards for forklift operators at loading docks happens the semi or container truck that’s being loaded or unloaded isn’t locked down. If not properly locked in place, it may move away from the dock, leaving a gap for a forklift to fall into. We highly recommend and can install both dock levelers and trailer restraint safety systems.
Whether it’s loading products into a truck or putting pallets of feed into a barn, wherever forklifts are loading or unloading, watch out for other workers or even visitors entering the area.
Increasing forklift safety reduces accident-related costs
You cannot afford to ignore it, put it off, or not do it. While there are plenty of reasons to emphasize safety, mainly for the health and safety of you and your people, the financial impact of unsafe operators and workplaces is one to consider because the cost of forklift-related accidents is far reaching. OSHA fines, insurance costs, lawsuits, loss of productivity, damaged property, and other expenses add up fast.
Forklifts are so common in many workplaces, operators and other employees may take them for granted and become careless. Your best defense is to regularly train forklift operators in the safe operation of your equipment and train all other employees how to exercise extreme caution when entering areas where forklifts are in operation, stored or being serviced.
Morrison—a workplace safety partner you can trust
When it comes to training forklift operators, teaching pedestrian safety, operator certification, and recertification programs, you can count on on our corporate trainers at TrainMOR.
For warehouse safety products like dock levelers, trailer restraint systems, safety gates, guard rails and collision warning systems, reach out to your local Morrison branch or browse our catalog here. We are a workplace safety partner you can trust.
Let’s all celebrate National Safety Month and Forklift Safety Day by staying safe!