Improving forklift safety

Without the proper training, equipment inspection, foot traffic regulations and employee evaluation, forklifts may be involved in on-the-job injuries.

Pittsburgh warehouse workers may find themselves operating or working near dangerous machinery. According to Optimum Safety Management, nearly 100,000 people are injured each year due to forklift-related accidents, most of which occur due to human error. Incidents such as being crushed by the vehicle or materials falling from it are two examples of accidents that often lead to fatalities, which affect about 85 people per year. Employers and employees can take steps to increase safety around this vehicle.

Employees should receive proper training

Employees must be given the tools necessary for success. In other words, they have to receive the proper training required to safely operate and work around forklifts. Understanding how to drive another type of vehicle or other heavy equipment cannot be used as a substitution for training specific to forklifts. In addition to the basic functions of the controls and instruments, this training should include the following:

  • Visibility issues
  • Limits to capacity and stability
  • Maneuverability
  • Guide to refueling or charging
  • Warnings and restrictions

Furthermore, an operator must be aged 18 or older, according to federal law, and Atlantic Training points out that it is also illegal to leave the forklift with the keys in it so that an unauthorized person may be able to use it.

Equipment should be inspected

Even when a person uses the same forklift every day, it is important to follow the appropriate inspection protocol for that specific machine before turning it on. Supervisors should be informed of any regular wear and tear, and more serious mechanical issues that develop, which put the operator and others in danger. These should be addressed by a mechanic or other expert who is trained in the care of this type of vehicle.

Foot traffic should be regulated

The operators are not the only employees who could be affected by forklifts. Pedestrians also need to be careful when in the area. No one should walk or stand on the forks, or under them. Employers should define roadways where forklifts may be used, and those who are on foot should be aware of them. Intersections and other places where there may be blind spots should receive extra attention.

Employees should be retrained when necessary

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration makes it clear that a single training may not be enough to ensure forklift safety. For example, if a forklift driver is involved in a near-miss, he or she may need to receive extra training on safe handling practices. Any employee expected to use this type of machinery on a regular basis should be evaluated every three years, and retrained in areas that need improvement.

Injured victims of accidents involving forklifts in Pennsylvania may be eligible for compensation to cover medical expense, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A workers' compensation attorney familiar with the laws of the state may be able to provide advice about how to proceed.