Forklifts, also referred to as powered industrial trucks, are a necessary tool in the daily operation of your business. But these little workhorses come with some unique safety concerns. Due to their small size and limited speed, many forklift operators sometimes underestimate the potential challenges and dangers that can take place while driving them. As a result, workplace accidents involving forklifts are relatively common and can lead to significant financial loss, injuries and even fatalities.
Common Accidents That Occur While Operating Forklifts
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists a number of common forklift accidents along with practical tips for avoiding them. These forklift accidents include variations of the following:
- Forklift tipover
- Collision with pedestrians, objects, shelving or other vehicles
- Pedestrians struck or crushed by forklift or moving parts
- Falling loads
- Falling off loading dock or ramp
Tips for Preventing Forklift Accidents
Common sense and patience are the best way to prevent accidents, but there are also some specific things that can be done to improve safety and reduce risks in the warehouse or in the yard.
1. Keep Floors Clear Of Spills and Debris
Warehouses and construction/equipment yards are not exactly spotless environments, and that’s generally not a problem. However, some care needs to be taken to clean up spills and debris, especially on concrete floors or in steel containers. Many forklift wheels can easily lose traction on wet surfaces, causing the driver to temporarily lose control.
2. Load Pallets Evenly and Securely
The best way to prevent falling loads is to pack pallets tightly with no gaps, to evenly distribute weight around the pallet’s surface area and to wrap loads tightly with shrink wrap. The more stable the load is, the less likely there is to be an accident.
3. Keep Field of Vision Clear
Never drive forward if the load obstructs the driver’s view. When transporting large loads, drive in reverse so that the pathway is easily seen.
4. Separate Forklift Traffic from Pedestrian Traffic
Pedestrian walkways should be separated from the paths of forklifts wherever possible. Sometimes a simple handrail is all it takes to keep someone from being crushed or pinned against a wall.
5. Utilize Equipment That Improves Visibility and Spatial Awareness
Most heavy lift forklift accidents can be prevented by simply slowing down and being more aware of the space around your forklift—in front, in back and on the sides. Backup alarms, horns and lights can help pedestrians and other forklift drivers be more alert and give you more space. Concave mirrors at corners and aisles can also help prevent collisions in a warehouse environment. Rear-view and side mirrors on lifts can also help.
Forklifts accidents are an unfortunate reality that all businesses will have to deal with at some point, but by following the five safety tips above and by conforming to OSHA policies, their occurrence can be greatly reduced.