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August 11, 2004
Just Who Needs Forklift Training?
Are you training the right staff? While it's true that only employees with specific training can operate a forklift, any employees who work around forklifts should know the basics of safe operation and maintenance-and how to avoid getting hurt accidentally. Try holding a "basic forklift safety" session for anyone who might be affected by forklifts. Even experienced, trained operators could use some refresher training in basic forklift safety. OSHA takes forklift safety very seriously-in fact, they've beefed up the standard to include very specific operator training requirements. Make sure all your employees take forklift safety seriously, too.

Keep everyone in the know. Forklifts are heavy machines that can seriously injure or kill people; they're not like mini-cars in an amusement park. Remind employees that forklifts can topple over, collide with objects (and people), and drop heavy loads, as well as represent a possible fire and explosion hazard when refueling. Next, review some of the basics of forklift safety:

  • Never exceed the rated load capacity.
  • Make sure the load is balanced on the forks.
  • Never ride as a passenger on a forklift.
  • Never stand under the forks when they're raised.
  • Never smoke when the forklift is being re-fueled.
Why it Matters...
  • Forklift-related accidents account for about 20,000 injuries and nearly 100 fatalities per year.
  • During 2003, OSHA wrote close to 3,000 violations related to powered industrial trucks and slammed companies with nearly $1.8 million in penalties.
  • Early in 2004, OSHA fined a single company a whopping $72,500 for forklift safety rule violations.
Finally, encourage all employees to be on the lookout for possible forklift safety hazards-including unsafe operation or maintenance problems-and to report any such hazards to a supervisor as soon as possible.

Operators need more than just the basics. OSHA's standard on Powered Industrial Trucks has specific requirements for operator training (29 CFR 1910.178 (l)(1)(i)) that require a combination of formal training (classroom, videos, etc.) with practical instruction, as well as an evaluation and certification process. The standard says that only those who are already competent operators can provide this training, and also specifies a long list of required training topics. Once trained, operators need refresher training and evaluation at least every 3 years-more often for operators who have a record of accidents or near-misses. And speaking of near misses-don't take them lightly! Use them as an opportunity for formal or informal safety training so the "real thing" doesn't happen at your facility. Trainers should refer to the OSHA standard to make sure all the required subject matter is covered.

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