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June 25, 2010
The 5 Deadly Forklift Dangers: Don’t Let These Happen to You!

OSHA estimates that 1 million forklifts are used in workplaces across the United States.

Each year, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents.

Deadly Danger # 1: Forklift Overturns

Nearly 1 out of every 4 fatalities occurs when a forklift tips over. Powered industrial trucks are not as stable as automobiles and can easily tip if they are overloaded or if the load is not well-balanced. In addition, the load becomes much less stable if the forks are not kept as close as possible to the ground. Other risk factors include operating on a grade or a ramp and making sharp turns. Combine those factors with an operator who is not using a seat belt and the result is a recipe for disaster. In a tipover, the operator will be safer if he or she stays with the vehicle and leans away from the fall.

To prevent rollovers:

  • Make sure the load is stable and safely arranged on the forks.
  • Do not raise or lower the forks while the forklift is moving
  • Use extreme caution on grades or ramps—normally, you should travel only straight up and down.
  • Do not attempt sharp turns—slow down to make turns.

Deadly Danger # 2: Nearby Worker Struck by Forklift

Operators may not be sufficiently aware that they cannot stop a forklift on a dime and drive at unsafe speeds. It is important that they watch out for area workers who may be pedestrians or simply working at their assigned stations. At times, drivers may be operating in reverse or with restricted visibility due to the size of a load. In addition, there may be blind corners in the workplace where speed should be reduced even further and regulations require that a warning horn be sounded.

Everyone can take certain safety steps to prevent collisions between forklifts and other workers. Unfortunately, when they do occur, the forklift will be the winner every time.

Management should:

  • Separate forklift traffic and other workers where possible.
  • Limit some aisles to workers on foot only or forklifts only.
  • Install workstations and equipment away from forklift aisles.

Operators should:

  • Operate the forklift at a speed that will permit it to be stopped safely.
  • Slow down and sound the horn at intersections and other locations where vision is obstructed.

Other workers should:

  • Be aware of forklift traffic areas—avoid them if possible—and keep a sharp eye out if they are walking in a forklift lane.
  • Be ready to move quickly if they hear a warning horn or backup signal.

Deadly Danger # 3: Victim Crushed by Forklift

Forklifts are heavy. The average forklift weights several thousand pounds, similar to a medium-sized automobile. As a result, 16 percent of forklift fatalities occur when a vehicle crushes a victim.

Always follow these precautions:

  • Do not allow passengers to ride on forklift trucks unless a seat is provided.
  • Require any occupants of a sit-down type forklift to use seat belts and remain inside the operator’s compartment.

Deadly Danger # 4: Falls from Forklifts

It is not always necessary that a victim be crushed—just the fall alone may be fatal. Recent data showed that 9 percent of fatal forklift accidents were the result of falls.

The following are important safety rules to prevent falls:

  • Ensure that operators use only an approved lifting cage and adhere to general safety practices for elevating personnel with a forklift.
  • Do not use a forklift to elevate workers who are standing on the forks.
  • Use a restraining means such as rails, chains, or a body belt with a lanyard or deceleration device for the person(s) on the platform.
  • Do not drive to another location with the work platform elevated.

Deadly Danger # 5: Failure to Inspect or Perform Proper Maintenance

OSHA requires inspection of forklifts every day—before they’re used and after each shift for a truck used around the clock.

Make sure that any forklift that doesn’t pass inspection is removed from service until proper repairs have been made.

What Can You Do?

The evidence is clear. Forklifts can and do perform vital work every day without accident or injury. The evidence is equally clear. There are far too many serious and fatal accidents involving forklifts each year.

The decisions made in each workplace can make a big difference. Make sure your workplace falls into the first category. Set up your forklift safety policy and see that it is followed. You’ll be glad you did.

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