You see them in every warehouse or factory. More than 1 million forklifts are used in workplaces across the United States. While they are essential for efficiency, they can be dangerous.
According to an article in EHS Today, forklift-related citations are ranked as one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) top 10 violations each year. An estimated 110,000 forklift accidents happen each year, costing employers roughly $135 million.
EHS offers essential tips every employer should know to prevent forklift accidents.
Offer safety training to employees
First and foremost, all employees must be trained in accordance with OSHA's standard on powered industrial trucks (29 CFR 1910.178). Employers must cover each of these required areas:
- General rules of safe operation
- The types of trucks used
- Forklift hazards
- OSHA's general safety requirements
- Hands-on operation under the supervision of experienced employees
- Demonstrated proficiency in safe forklift operation
- Formal training, such as lectures, videos, software, written material, demonstrations, and hands-on experience
- Certification that all required training has been complete
- Assessment of a forklift operator's skillset
- Forklift operators should be evaluated at least once every three years
- Refresher training must be offered when forklift operators show deficiency or inability to safely operate a forklift
Inspect for hazards before operating
Forklifts should always be inspected for safety hazards before operating. Employees and employers should do the following:
- Check tire and oil levels
- Look for water, oil, or radiator leaks
- Make sure the forks are straight and free of cracks
- Make sure the brakes, lights, horn, and steering wheel or properly working
- Check for other hazards, such as uneven surfaces, obstructions, and overhead obstacles
Ensure employees are safe during operation
The three most common forklift hazards in the workplace include:
- Aisles, pathways, and storage areas not being clearly marked, which puts pedestrians at risk of being struck
- Pedestrians walk into the path of forklifts, especially when not alerted
- Forklifts tipping over due to imbalanced or unsecured loads
In order to prevent these accidents from happening, EHS Today suggests doing the following:
- Pay attention to posted speed limits, warning signs, intersections, and floor markings.
- Stay attentive and alert. Always keep an eye on where a forklift is traveling.
- Use the horn at intersections and other areas where pedestrians might be present.
- Always ensure inventory is securely loaded onto a forklift and well-balanced.
- Avoid loading inventory over the weight limit.
Other safety tips to avoid workplace forklift accidents
Floor markings aren't required by OSHA standards. They can, however, make for safer work conditions and help avoid OSHA citations. Floor markings are used to clarify that an area is an aisle.
EHS Today also suggests using steering wheel covers and padlocks when forklifts aren't being operated. In addition, lockout and tagout devices can prevent a forklift from inadvertently starting up.
In the event you are hurt in a workplace forklift accident, get immediate medical attention and speak to an experienced Philadelphia workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.