What is a forklift truck? Forklifts or lift trucks, are powered industrial trucks that are used for short distance lifting and transportation of materials. They are used to move heavy loads over short distances in a variety of industries, from manufacturing and warehousing to construction and logistics.
However, in as much as the forklift is very important because of its uses, it has inherent risk which if not managed could result to accident; from minor to severe, and can even result to dead. This is why this article is important “Rules for Forklift Safety“.
The basic design of a forklift includes a load carriage that is raised and lowered, with fork-like prongs attached to it. These forks can be slid under a pallet or other load, allowing the forklift to lift and move the materials. Forklifts are typically equipped with counterweights at the rear to balance the weight of the load being lifted, and they have a cab where the operator can sit or stand to control the machine.
There are different types of forklifts designed for specific purposes, such as counterbalance forklifts, reach trucks, pallet jacks, and rough terrain forklifts. Forklift operators need to be trained and certified to operate these machines safely, as they can be powerful and require careful handling to prevent accidents and injuries.
Forklift Accident Statistics
Here are some statistics you should have in your mind before you operate a forklift or if you are working around a forklift:
- More than 1,000,000 forklifts are in operation throughout the United States
- Forklift accidents cost businesses $135,000,000 every year
- Roughly 70% of all accidents could have been avoided with proper training
- OSHA estimates there are 110,000 forklift accidents every year
- Roughly 20,000 workers are injured every year in forklift-related accidents
- Forklift-related citations are routinely among OSHA’s top 10 violations each year:
- 2,860 violations in 2016 (sixth most-cited citation)
- 2,760 violations in 2015 (sixth most-cited citation)
- 3,147 violations in 2014 (fifth most-cited citation)
- 3,340 violations in 2013 (sixth most-cited citation)
- 1,993 violations in 2012 (seventh most-cited citation)
- 3,432 violations in 2011 (seventh most-cited citation)
- Forklift and powered truck fatalities
- 2014 – 89
- 2013 – 91
- 2012 – 95
- 2011 – 66
- Overturned forklifts are the leading cause of deaths involving forklifts; they account for 22% of all forklift-related fatalities.
- Workers on foot struck by forklifts account for 20% of all forklift-related fatalities.
- Victims crushed by forklifts account for 16% of all fatalities and falls from forklifts account for 9% of all forklift fatalities.
- Between October 2015 and September 2016:
- 1,619 federal inspections led to 2,349 forklift-related citations, totaling $4,266,235 in penalties
- Of that total
- 756 federal inspections led to 1,076 forklift-related citations in the manufacturing industry, totaling $1,640,164 in penalties
- 212 federal inspections led to 332 forklift-related citations in the wholesale trade industry, totaling $566,827 in penalties
- 175 federal inspections led to 219 forklift-related citations in the construction industry, totaling $326,605 in penalties
- 188 federal inspections led to 292 forklift-related citations in the transportation and warehousing industry, totaling $943,617 in penalties
- 118 federal inspections led to 169 forklift-related citations in the retail trade industry, totaling $350,548 in penalties
Rules for Forklift Safety
- Only trained and authorized personnel should operate forklifts to ensure proper handling and safety awareness.
- Conduct pre-shift inspections to identify and address any mechanical issues, ensuring the forklift is in safe working condition.
- Adhere to the specified load capacity of the forklift to prevent tip-overs and maintain stability.
- Always wear the seatbelt while operating the forklift to reduce the risk of injury in case of sudden stops or tip-overs.
- Keep the forklift stable by avoiding abrupt starts, stops, and turns, and be cautious when handling elevated loads.
- Forklifts are designed for a single operator. Do not allow anyone to ride on the forks or any part of the forklift.
- Watch for pedestrians and other vehicles, use horns at intersections, and obey traffic rules within the workplace.
- Ensure a clear line of sight by keeping the operator’s area free from obstructions and using mirrors when necessary.
- Operate the forklift at a safe and controlled speed, especially when turning or navigating through congested areas.
- Use the appropriate lifting technique, positioning the forks correctly under the load to prevent load shifting or falling.
- Do not modify the forklift without proper authorization, as this can compromise safety features.
- Park the forklift in designated areas with the forks lowered, the engine off, and the brakes engaged.
- Use signals and communicate with spotters or other operators to coordinate movements and prevent accidents.
- Be aware of and adapt to changing conditions, such as uneven surfaces, ramps, and hazardous environments.
- Follow proper procedures when charging electric forklift batteries to prevent electrical hazards.
- Know and understand emergency procedures, including how to safely exit the forklift in case of malfunction or danger.
- Follow proper procedures for refueling or recharging forklifts, and do not smoke near fueling areas.
- Use fall protection equipment if working at heights or handling materials on elevated surfaces.
- Be aware of overhead obstructions and maintain a safe distance to prevent collisions or falling objects.
- Report any malfunctions, damage, or unsafe conditions promptly to supervisors for timely repairs and corrective actions.
OSHA Safe Forklift Operation
Ways to prevent these hazards include:
Forklift Operator must;
- Always operate the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Always wear a seatbelt when the forklift has one.
- Never exceed the rated load and ensure it is stable and balanced.
- Do not raise or lower the load while traveling.
- Keep a safe distance from platform and ramp edges.
- Be aware of other vehicles in the work area.
- Have clear visibility of the work area and ensure you have enough clearance when raising, loading,
and operating a forklift.
- Use proper footing and the handhold, if available, when entering the lift.
- Use horns at cross aisles and obstructed areas.
- Watch for pedestrians and observe the speed limit.
- Do not give rides or use the forks to lift people.
- Only trained and certified workers may operate a forklift.
- Ensure operators are trained on types of trucks in use.
- Remove from service any forklift found to be in unsafe operating condition.
- Keep forklifts in clean condition; free of excess oil and grease.
- Repair and maintain according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.