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Must-Have Safety Policies to Avoid Forklift Warehouse Accidents

The most commonly used equipment on a worksite is the forklift. Forklifts are powerful, and like any other industrial machine, there’s a risk involved when operating them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has estimated that forklift accidents cause about 34,900 serious injuries and roughly 85 deaths each year.

What’s even more alarming is that 25% of these accidents can be avoided as they’re caused by inadequate training.

Currently, there are over one million forklifts estimated to be in operation. It’s therefore crucial to equip your crew with proper forklift training, and observe all warehouse safety policies to prevent accidents.

Examples of Common Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents make up about 1% of all warehouse accidents. According to OSHA, some of the most common accidents include:

  • Forklift overturns: This type of forklift accident is very common and it can hurt pedestrians who are not alert. It occurs when drivers are speeding or taking unsafe turns.
  • Falling from a forklift: Forklifts are designed to lift pallets, not people. Lifting people is unsafe and against warehouse forklift safety rules.
  • Pallets falling from the rack: It can be challenging loading and unloading pallets stacked at a height. Pallets higher up sometimes can’t be seen, and may fall on pedestrians or the forklift operator if they are knocked off.

Safety Policies and Tips to Ensure Occupational Safety When Operating a Forklift

Forklift safety sign
Source: Pixabay

Modern-day forklifts are packed with advanced features for occupational safety. However, it’s still necessary to take precautions when operating these heavy machines. By observing the following safety guidelines, you can avoid common forklift accidents and keep everyone safe.

Forklift Operators Should Have a Forklift Truck Certification

Many forklift accidents happen due to poor training. All operators are required to have a license as per OSHA standards. Employers, on the other hand, are required to always check for this document before the operator handles a forklift. 

Employers are also required to evaluate the performance of their forklift operators at least once every three years, with demonstrations, videos, and lectures on forklift safety operations.

Daily Forklift Inspection 

A thorough inspection of the forklift should be done every day before use. These daily checks are important for identifying defects and logging problems. Common checks include:

  • Checking the overhead guard and mast for damage
  • Checking for oil, radiator, and water leaks
  • Checking fluid levels (brake, engine, coolant, fuel, and hydraulic) and the tires
  • Testing operating controls like the steering wheel, brakes, lights, and horns 

If any defects are found, a qualified mechanic should repair them before the forklift resumes operation.

Forklift Operator Should Have Clear Forward Visibility

A forklift operator should maintain 360-degree visibility by keeping the forks low to the ground. If the load obstructs forward visibility, the forklift should be operated in reverse. 

Man reversing forklift
Source: Pexels

Additionally, the operator should make sure they can see the rack when positioning a load.

OSHA also recommends:

  • Use of the rear-view mirrors to boost visibility
  • Placing mirrors on aisle corners to increase visibility 
  • Using blue safety lights at the front and back of the forklift so pedestrians can see the oncoming vehicle
  • Always looking in the direction you are going
  • Using headlights when working at night or outdoors 

Use a Floor Marking System

Safety floor marks for warehouse
Source: Pexels

Warehouse floor marking uses epoxy paint or tape to create visual cues and increase visibility for the warehouse team. It can be done over the whole floor or around areas prone to hazards like falling and stumbling.

The color yellow is commonly used to mark the floor, while red is used to symbolize fire equipment, fire hazards, and emergency switches elsewhere in the warehouse.

The use of signs and way-finders also helps keep pedestrians out of the paths of forklifts, improving the general flow of traffic in the warehouse or factory.

Observe the Maximum Weight Capacity

All forklifts and power lift trucks have a maximum carrying capacity that should not be exceeded. The capacity varies depending on the class of forklift. You can check the maximum limit on the back of the truck.

Overloading can cause the whole machine to fall over, injuring personnel and damaging the load and equipment.

The Warehouse Should Be Clean and Organized

Obstructions impede efficiency and can force a forklift operator to make sudden and erratic movements to avoid debris, which can result in an accident.

The warehouse should always be safe with lanes free from trash and other obstructions that could block the path of warehouse traffic. The area should also be well lit so that drivers can see pedestrians and maintain safe operation.

Maintain Loading and Unloading Procedures

Poor loading and unloading practices are the cause of the most common forklift accident: overturning or tipping. Overturning is caused by:

  • A heavy or poorly stacked load
  • High speeds after loading
  • A poorly maintained loading/unloading dock

When loading or unloading a forklift, ensure the loading pallets are uniformly stacked and drive slowly and cautiously after loading. The load should be tilted backward for stability and supported with ropes if it’s large or heavy.

Government Regulations on the Use of Forklifts

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed regulations for all powered industrial trucks in the Code of Federal Regulations. Here are some of the basics.

Regulation Description
Operator training
  • Specific training is required to operate a forklift and includes truck operation, loading, seat belts, and alarms.
  • Only a trained and certified worker can operate a forklift.
Maintenance
  • Any forklift which is unsafe for operation should be removed from service.
  • Forklifts should be kept in clean conditions, free from grease and excess oils.
  • Repair and maintenance should be done according to the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Operation
  • The vehicle should be operated according to the instructions of the manufacturer.
  • A forklift should always have a seat belt.
  • The rated load should not be exceeded and it should be balanced and stable.
  • While traveling, don’t raise or lower the load.
  • Keep a safe distance from ramp edges and the platform.

Workplace Falls: How to Assess Risk?

Lift truck drivers and warehouse employees are at constant risk of falling off the machines. Such accidents and injuries are liabilities incurred by either the employers, fleet owners, company shareholders, or the family. 

If employers fail to provide protection, they are at risk of facing lawsuits, fines, and heavy compensation for the damage incurred. Employers can also lose valuable workers, while workers lose income as they recover from injuries.

This can be prevented by taking a free risk assessment quiz. This comprehensive test should be completed by employers to ensure the safety of the warehouse or factory.

According to OSHA regulations, employers are supposed to provide a safe environment for all, regardless of the relationship between employer and employees. This is because all damages will be incurred by the employer, regardless of whether an employee or non-employee has been injured on site.

A fall protection system will keep you safe, and compliant with the workplace falls requirement. 

Fall Accident Prevention System

NoFalls Accident Prevention System
The NoFalls System

Apart from forklift accidents, personnel falls from flatbed trucks are also fairly common. A fall from a flatbed trailer truck deck can cause severe injury or death. This is because they’re significantly higher than forklifts.

OSHA recommends that warehouses should have fall prevention systems for working and walking surfaces over 4 feet, such as flatbeds. Here’s where we come in.

Our NoFalls System features a flatbed truck fall protection patented system that protects dockworkers and drivers from falling from the deck of a flatbed trailer. It’s a powerful system, able to support over 1000 lbs, so you can safely transport heavy loads.

It can also withstand harsh weather and is easy to install and remove. If desired, it can be installed and left permanently on the deck.

We needed a solution that was affordable, effective at preventing falls and quick and easy to set up, to ensure driver compliance. We have deployed dozens of NoFall units and I highly recommend them. 

Marc Scibilia, Director of Safety, Maintenance & Fleet Services, ADICA Trucking

More information on the installation and use of the fall prevention system can be found in our free eBook.

The NoFalls System is recommended for fleet, warehouses, flatbed decks, construction sites, shipping companies, and cargo trucks. It not only keeps employees safe, but also protects company assets.

FAQs

Does OSHA Mandate Forklift Operators to Have a Valid Driver’s License 

Forklift operators aren’t required to have a driver's license. OSHA requires that operators have documentary evidence of training, certification. Your operators will also need a documented performance evaluation every three years. 

What Position Should the Forks Be When Driving a Forklift?

The forks are supposed to be 6 to 10 inches above the ground to avoid ground potential hazards. Since forklifts are heavy on top, the load should be tilted backward when carrying it.

Is Forklift Training Mandatory?

OSHA regulations don’t mandate training every year if there have been no incidences. Training is required if:

  • Operators have been involved in an accident
  • You have changed the type of equipment 
  • Operator have received unsatisfactory evaluations



Featured Image: Pixabay by pgcuellar