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How to Safely Use Forklifts

Forklifts may look like tiny vehicles, but these workhorses of industry have a deceiving size—the average forklift weighs approximately 9,000 pounds! For comparison, a 2019 Ford Explorer weighs about 4,901 pounds if purchased with all options. Though a fraction of the size of the average vehicle, the weight of forklifts makes them a danger in every worksite where they operate.

Why Forklift Safety Is Important

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) has a set of rules and regulations designed to decrease the amount of worker death and injuries from forklifts. According to the organization, roughly 85 deaths are caused by forklifts each year. The vehicles also account for almost 35,000 workplace injuries each year.

One safety management company estimates that 11 percent of all forklifts will be involved in an accident. With over 855,900 forklifts in the nation, that means there will be approximately 95,000 preventable workplace accidents annually.

According to this company, the most common fatal forklift accidents include:

  • Crushed by tipped over forklift
  • Crushed between forklift and a surface
  • Crushed between two vehicles
  • Struck by or run over by forklift
  • Struck by material falling from forklift
  • Fall from a forklift’s platform or forks

Improved forklift safety means having a workplace that’s safe for everyone, whether they are operating one of these vehicles or working near them.

How to Improve Forklift Safety

Take it slow

Turning around corners at a low speed is always a best practice when operating a forklift. Because of their design, forklifts can be agile despite their weight. These large yet nimble machines are often able to quickly accelerate and make sharp turns. In a work environment, these qualities make forklifts a constant hazard.

These machines are designed to turn while carrying a heavy load. However, they’re meant to perform this task slowly. If a driver takes a corner too quickly—even in an unloaded forklift—the vehicle may tip over.

Only operate a forklift after training

Forklifts are easy to learn how to operate. However, using them safely requires proper training and extensive practice. Inexperienced drivers often create problems and find themselves facing problems they can’t solve.

Companies must ensure that every forklift operator finishes adequate training and certification to use a forklift in the workplace. Trained forklift drivers will understand their machine’s limits and will know common dangers to search for while operating their machine.

Cautiously maneuver a loaded forklift

Many forklift models can lift heavy loads while moving. Unfortunately, many drivers will lift an item from a high location and continue to transport it at elevation. However, OSHA regulates that items are transported approximately 4 inches off the ground. Doing so places heavy objects in a position that makes tip-overs and falls less likely.

Optimize your workplace’s layout for safe forklift operation

A well-designed workplace has a significant influence on forklift safety. Making sure that all aisles are clear will give a forklift have the space needed to operate safely. Additionally, zones in which forklifts operate must be marked to warn employees and visitors. While signs are popular, many employers use tape or paint to mark where forklifts operate in their workplace. Signs are easy to miss, but tape and paint is a constantly visible reminder of where it’s safe for workers to walk.

Don't accept passengers

Do not use a forklift to transport another person, even for short distances. If a load is too heavy for a forklift, do not continue to try and lift it by using coworkers as a counterbalance. Doing so places your coworker at risk of falling from the forks or being crushed by your forklift.

Hold Your Employer Accountable for Forklift Safety

If you work around forklifts, it’s important to make sure your employer has provided training to those who operate them. Companies that allow untrained forklift drivers to work in their facilities place every person in them at risk. Reminding employers of their duty to train workers might be enough to save lives and prevent injuries.

If you’ve been injured in a forklift accident, call the work injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today. We’ve won billions for clients and are ready to fight for your compensation. Consultation is free!

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