Watch Out and Keep Alert to Avoid Forklift Accidents
Few are surprised when told that forklifts are dangerous; as many confess they just look hazardous. Approximately 100 workers are fatally injured every year and around 95,000 are injured while operating or working around these powered industrial trucks. This accounts for around 10 percent of all workplace injuries in the US. Forklift turnover is responsible for many of these fatalities.
The federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires every forklift operator to be trained and certified to operate the device in their workplace; be it a warehouse or construction site. Operators are also subject to performance re-evaluations under the provisions of OSHA Regulation 1910.178(l)(3) every three years.
Forklift/Lift Truck Accidents
Knowing the most common causes of forklift accidents is a good start. OSHA conducted a study of forklift-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities not long ago and discovered the top causes (and ways to avoid them) are:
- Operator inattention – Operator inattention is the most common cause of forklift accidents and it’s 100 percent preventable. While operator inattention can be caused by fatigue, distractions or simply carelessness, they must stay alert. A few breaks during their shift help them concentrate better and be more aware of their surroundings.
- Forklift overturns – Overturn is the leading cause of death related to forklift accidents and can be caused by:
- Equipment malfunction
- Too much speed
- Stopping or turning too quickly
- Unbalanced/uneven loads
- Operating on inclines, uneven or irregular surfaces
- Handling loads that are heavier than the capacity of the forklift
Overturns can be avoided by operators turning carefully, following speed limits, taking inclines (up or down) very slowly, raising and lowering the load only when the forklift is not moving, paying attention to load weight, and keeping it as low as the ground as possible.
- Unstable loads – These can be the product of anything from an off-center load to a damaged or loose portion in the load. They can cause you to drop your load or even tip over your forklift. To avoid the hazard of an unstable load, or if your load is off-center and can’t be corrected, position the heaviest part of the load nearest the front wheels of the forklift and against the carriage.
- Operators (or other workers) struck by load – Though overhead guards protect operators from falling objects, they are not rated to withstand the weight of a falling load. To avoid dropping a load:
- Always use the load extension backrest
- Confirm the forks are even
- Make sure the load has enough overhead load clearance: at least six inches.
- Be very careful when tilting the mast backward to stabilize a load
- Make certain you are on level ground before raising the load more than a couple of feet above the ground.
- Lack of training – Forklift accidents don’t just injure or kill operators. Workers in proximity can also be seriously hurt or die when a load falls or be struck by a forklift turnover. Both operators and those working around forklifts must be properly trained in all aspects of safety on and around these vehicles, and to keep on guard for signs of accidents before they happen.
There are many hazards that might cause a forklift accident. Operators and construction workers alike need to observe rules of safety and common sense in order to eliminate mishaps that cause injuries and lost time at work.
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