Forklifts – the workhorse of the warehouse. They’re incredibly useful – but in the wrong hands they can be incredibly hazardous. Forklift operators, pedestrians and company management must all share the responsibility of ensuring forklift safety in the workplace.
Hazards of Forklift Usage
Implementing forklift safety and control measures will help prevent worker injuries, fatalities and damaged goods. Here are some of the more prominent hazards of forklift usage.
- Handling. A forklift moves differently than a car. Rear-end steering means the rear of the forklift swings wide during a turn. No matter the type of forklift, drivers must know exactly how much space they need to maneuver.
- Blind Spots. The load being carried can create blind spots for the operator. To complicate things further, the forklift is often operated in reverse. Training, experience, caution and collision awareness systems are required to operate safely.
- Speeding. Speeding is a common cause of accidents in the workplace. In a collision, a forklift operating at warehouse speeds can do as much damage as a car driving about 15 miles per hour. Enforce speed limits throughout the facility.
- Overloading. Carrying a load that is too heavy makes a forklift unstable and prone to tipping around sharp corners or changes in slope. Before use, look at the data plate found on the forklift to confirm maximum load capacity.
Reducing Forklift Safety Risks
It’s obvious that forklifts can be dangerous if not operated with care and responsibility. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the risks of forklift-related accidents on the warehouse floor.
- Controlling Pedestrian Flow. The number one cause of forklift fatalities is pedestrians being struck by the forklift, so one of the most important – and effective – strategies to reduce accident risk is to control pedestrian flow throughout the facility. Separate forklift traffic flow with pedestrian barriers handrail and provide different aisles for workers on foot to use. With the bright yellow handrail, people will immediately identify which areas are safe to walk – limiting injury or unwanted wandering.
- Protecting Facilities from Damage. Safeguarding your facility is extremely important, as losing expensive machinery or stock because of forklift damage can jeopardize a company for days or even weeks. Post protectors, column guards and floor angle guides are commonly used to protect pallet rack systems from collision. This is a good start, but the installation of heavy-duty safety guardrails and steel bollards are more effective for large areas and equipment that need extra protection. These safety guards are bolted into the concrete floor and provide a first line of defense from forklift accidents.
- Safety Training for Everyone. Training should be mandatory for both drivers and people walking the floor. Forklift drivers approaching any intersection should use horns and flashing lights. All employees should understand where and how collision awareness systems Developing a traffic management plan is an effective first step to ensure people and forklifts don’t mingle.
Forklift Safety: It’s a Team Effort
In the USA, forklift-related accidents kill close to 100 workers each year and injure over 20,000 additional employees. Approximately 18% of all forklift accidents involve employees or pedestrians being struck by forklifts. W.W. Cannon will work with your team to reduce the risk of forklift accidents and increase safety at your facility.
A walk through by one of our warehouse safety experts can identify where forklift traffic could pose a risk to the safety of machinery, building structures, or employees, and thus where guardrail installation would be most appropriate.
In today’s fast-paced workplace, everyone must contribute to forklift safety. Call us at 800.442.3061 for assistance with a safety plan or collision prevention equipment. W.W. Cannon stands ready to help.