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Strategies for Preventing Forklift Accidents

Forklifts may not seem very dangerous, but these large, heavy, powerful vehicles can cause a lot of damage in the wrong hands. Operating a forklift safely isn’t exactly complicated, but it is easy to deviate from safety standards if you’re not focused on them. What steps should you take to prevent forklift accidents in your place of business?

The Power and Danger of Forklifts

It’s easy to underestimate just how powerful and dangerous forklifts are. It could be because they have a relatively small profile compared to other pieces of equipment. It could be because they move so slowly when operated. It could also be because they’re relatively easy to learn how to operate.

In any case, it’s important to recognize just how threatening these pieces of machinery can be. Both the forklift operator and people in the vicinity can be seriously hurt or killed if the forklift is mishandled in any way. 

Forklifts are many tons in weight, and on average, are multiple times heavier than a typical car. On top of that, forklifts often carry very heavy, potentially unstable loads. Improper operation can cause the forklift or its load to tip, fall, or roll over. Such an accident has the potential to be fatal.

Forklift weight isn’t evenly distributed, making it prone to instability when improperly operated. They need lots of time to stop because of their high weight and momentum. And to top it off, forklift operators are entirely dependent on vision, meaning any blind spot or obstruction can make an accident more likely.

How to Prevent Forklift Accidents

forklift-accidents

So how do you prevent forklift accidents?

  •       Provide education, training, and certification. Find a 100% OSHA compliant forklift training program and provide education, training, and certification to your entire team. This type of program can teach your employees everything about forklifts, including safe operating standards, potential hazards and risks, and protocols for dealing with ambiguous or unusual situations. Once all your operators are properly certified, they’ll know exactly how to handle this piece of equipment responsibly.
  •       Cultivate a safety culture. Next, you need to make sure your employees are motivated to follow through on their training. That means you need to create an entire culture of safety. In other words, your organizational values and practices need to instill and enforce safety as a top priority.
  •       Instate good supervisors. Good supervisors can make sure everyone is following the rules and step in whenever they notice safety violations. They can help keep your safety culture afloat, prevent potential catastrophes before they happen, and correct employees who aren’t operating equipment safely.
  •       Provide adequate markers and warnings. Make sure you also adjust the workplace, providing adequate markers and warnings around forklifts and the loads they carry. Signage raises awareness and reduces the frequency of simple mistakes.
  •       Maintain mutual visibility. Greater visibility prevents accidents. Accordingly, you should make sure your forklift operators, as well as other workers in the area, share mutual visibility at all times.
  •       Wear proper gear. Forklift operators and people around them should be wearing proper protective gear at all times.
  •       Set strict speed limits. Forklifts aren’t especially fast by nature, but their heavy weight makes them deadly even at relatively low speeds. Accordingly, you should set strict speed limits for forklift operation.
  •       Keep loads close to the ground. All your operators should work diligently to keep forklift loads close to the ground. This makes the possibilities of tipping and falling significantly lower, as the center of gravity for each load is kept closer to the ground.
  •       Use spotters when necessary. Sometimes, a forklift spotter is required for safety. This may seem like a trivial exercise, but it’s something you should never skip.
  •       Practice preventative maintenance. Poor maintenance and neglect can interfere with your ability to safely operate a forklift. Accordingly, you should have protocols in place for regular preventative maintenance. Ideally, you’ll be able to spot and fix potential issues before they interfere with operation.
  •       Impose disciplinary action for offenses. No matter how much you train or supervise your employees, there’s a chance they will violate your safety standards anyway. If you want to maintain a safe environment, you can’t allow this to happen without some kind of disciplinary action or consequences in place.
  •       Review incidents and make changes. If and when there are safety-related incidents, you should review those incidents and make proactive changes to ensure they don’t happen again in the future.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States operate powered industrial trucks like forklifts – and forklifts are responsible for more than a quarter of all construction accidents. If workplaces all over the country committed to higher standards for forklift safety, we could prevent countless injuries and deaths. 

Fortunately, the best strategies for safer forklift operation are inexpensive and accessible, so there’s no excuse not to pursue them.

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