Forklift accidents are serious business. Forklifts’ weight, speed, steel forks, and generally poor-visibility make them dangerous machines, especially when they are used around other forklifts and pedestrians.
There are many causes of forklift accidents. Some accidents are caused by drivers being reckless and other accidents are caused by an unpredictable problem with the machine. Many forklift accidents can be prevented by taking simple measures that ensure operators and anyone working around forklifts know how to stay safe.
Here is a list of common causes of forklift accidents. There are many beyond this list. But take a look at this list first to understand some of the problems you will see most often.
- Lack of training or improper training – Forklift operators that do not follow OSHA guidelines are more likely to be involved in a forklift accident. OSHA requires employers to offer forklift operator training based on OSHA standards. Formal and practical training must be provided. For more information about developing and implementing a forklift operator training program you can visit OHSA’s website.
- Poor visibility – forklifts themselves often have poor visibility. The mast, carriage, load, and LP tank are large obstructions that make scanning the driving path difficult. Other obstructions in the warehouse like walls, stacked product, cluttered aisles and blind turns decrease visibility and increase the chances of an accident. To improve visibility, mirrors can be mounted on the forklift and on walls and rack throughout a warehouse. Learn how to keep your warehouse clean.
- Insufficient lighting – dark areas make it difficult for forklift operators to see what is on the ground or who is nearby. Even if a forklift operator has driven a certain path thousands of times, if another employee leaves an object in a poorly lit place the operator might not see it and can cause an accident.
- Forklift maintenance – forklifts require regular maintenance if they are to be used safely. Brakes, tires, and other important parts wear over time and need to be replaced and repaired. Just like a car with bad brakes, a forklfit with bad brakes won’t stop as quickly and can collide with other objects and people. Worn and chunked tires can make the forklift bounce, lurch, and not stop as quickly.
- Loads not stacked or secured correctly – palletized loads that are unevenly stacked or that are not secured to the pallet have a higher risk of falling from the pallet and hitting the operator or another employee. Pallets should be stacked so that weight is evenly distributed and so that there is little risk of anything on the pallet coming loose.
- Warning lights and alarms not working – forklifts typically come equipped with a horn on the steering wheel, a back up alarm, and a strobe light. All of these features warn other forklift operators and pedestrians that a forklift is approaching. The horn is most often used at intersections, doorways, and turns where visibility is limited and sound is needed to warn that there is an approaching forklift. The back up alarm sounds when the forklift is in reverse. This lets others nearby know that a forklift is approaching and the driver’s vision might be limited. The flashing strobe alerts by sight to anyone nearby that a forklift is in the area. This awareness helps pedestrians stand clear and get out of the way of an approaching forklift.
You might also want to consider starting a Safety Committee.
A Daily Operator Checklist helps reduce maintenance and safety problems as well.