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June 10, 2014
Prevent forklift accidents with these safety tips

There are somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 forklift accidents every year. A quick refresher might be all it takes to make sure your employees don’t add to that number. Consider holding a toolbox talk on the subject soon.

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Operating a forklift is a risky job

An employee jumps from a tipping forklift truck. A new hire is placed in the driver’s seat with no training. A worker is driving a fork truck with a clearly elevated load.  All three are injured as a result.

According to the Industrial Truck Association, there are more than 850,000 forklifts (powered industrial trucks) in the United States and about 85 fatal accidents each year. OSHA puts it bluntly in a message to workers, “Operating a forklift without training is dangerous and can even be fatal to you or other employees working in the area.”

Most of the injuries and property damage can be linked to three causes:

  • Insufficient or inadequate forklift training;
  • Failure to follow safe forklift operating procedures including speed; and
  • Lack of enforcement of safety rules—for example, not using a forklift to elevate workers standing on the forks.

Other issues include lack of proper tools and attachments, poorly maintained forklifts, and aging equipment.

There are many types of powered industrial trucks, each with its own operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck.

Injuries commonly occur when (1) lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks; (2) lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; (3) they are struck by a lift truck; or (4) they fall while on elevated pallets and tines.

What does the OSHA standard require for forklift safety?

OSHA requires employers to develop and implement a training program based on the general principles of safe truck operation, the type of vehicle being used, the hazards of the workplace created by the use of the vehicle, and the general safety requirements of the OSHA standard.

Trained operators must know how to do the job properly and safely. Formal and practical training must be provided. And employers must certify that each operator has received the training and evaluate each operator at least once every 3 years.

Before operating the truck in the workplace, the employer must evaluate the operator’s performance and determine if the operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely. Refresher training is needed whenever an operator demonstrates a deficiency in the safe operation of the truck.

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