June 27, 2017

National Forklift Safety Day 2017 fulfills its educational mission

Speakers from government, industry, and a staffing and recruitment firm focused on opportunities to improve lift truck safety at the fourth annual Industrial Truck Association event.

By Toby Gooley

On June 13, members of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), which represents lift truck manufacturers and suppliers of associated parts and accessories, sponsored the fourth annual National Forklift Safety Day in Washington, D.C. The event provides an opportunity for the industry to educate customers, policymakers, and government officials about the safe use of forklifts and the importance of proper operator training.

The program featured speakers on a range of safety-related topics. Among the highlights:

  • Brett Wood, president and CEO, Toyota Material Handling North America and ITA chairman, and Kevin Krakora, vice president, design, quality, and product support for Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America and ITA National Forklift Safety Day task force chairman, discussed the genesis and mission of National Forklift Safety Day, the importance of forklift safety for end users, and some of the ways industrial truck manufacturers and associated companies are working to promote forklift safety.

  • Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, spoke about congressional efforts to reduce or eliminate regulations that he said place constraints on businesses. He also said his committee hoped to pass a bill that would reduce red tape and direct more federal funding for student scholarships and loans for students who want training in such trades as as manufacturing and equipment maintenance and repair.
  • Patrick Kapust, deputy director, Directorate of Enforcement Programs for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), discussed OSHA's policies on temporary workers. "Both the host company and the staffing agency have shared responsibility for protecting the safety and health of temporary workers" under current law, he said. The question employers should ask themselves, he said, is, "Who is in the best position to correct a hazard?" Kapust also noted that the Trump administration has not yet filled some key positions at OSHA. Career employees are filling in and existing initiatives are "moving forward," but those initiatives cannot be finalized until top executives are in place to make policy decisions, he said.
  • Tony Smith, director of safety outreach at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., offered practical tips for improving industrial truck safety. When supervisors push too hard on productivity, operators may respond by cutting corners when it comes to safety, he said. To prevent that, he suggested better training for supervisors, with a stress on understanding the potential consequences of their demands on operators. Smith also recommended that companies "get safety managers in the seat and make sure they know how to safely operate the equipment themselves." He suggested working closely with the best, most respected forklift operator in the DC to get the safety message out to the rest of the operators.
  • Scott Bicksler, lead safety manager for the recruiting and staffing company Aerotek, identified safety mistakes employers make when working with temporary employees. For example, warehouse and DC supervisors sometimes require temporary hires to operate forklifts, even though the employer did not specify that lift truck operation would be part of the job. There's also evidence that injuries to temporary employees are underreported, and that some employers don't track and document temporary workers' on-site training, he said. Bicksler stressed the need for temporary staffing contracts to describe each position's actual responsibilities, and said any contract for temporary staffing should specify who has responsibility for safety and equipment training, tracking, and documentation; OSHA reporting; and medical supervision and record-keeping. Bicksler also urged employers and supervisors to become fully familiar with OSHA's Temporary Worker Initiative, which clarifies staffing agencies' and employers' responsibilities.

Following the presentations, a number of attendees headed to Capitol Hill for meetings with representatives, senators, and congressional staffers on forklift safety and international trade issues. ITA said it hopes National Forklift Safety Day will provide greater awareness of safe practices as well as encourage safer behavior in warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and other environments where forklifts are in use.

The preceding day, ITA released "Lifting America: The Economic Impact of Industrial Truck Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers," the first-ever report on the industrial truck manufacturing industry's impact on the U.S. economy. The report, prepared by Oxford Economics, estimates that the industrial truck industry's total contribution to the U.S. economy in 2015 was $25.7 billion. Read a summary of the report's findings.

About the Author

Toby Gooley
Contributing Editor
Contributing Editor Toby Gooley is a freelance writer and editor specializing in supply chain, logistics, material handling, and international trade. She previously was Senior Editor at DC VELOCITY and Editor of DCV's sister publication, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. Prior to joining AGiLE Business Media in 2007, she spent 20 years at Logistics Management magazine as Managing Editor and Senior Editor covering international trade and transportation. Prior to that she was an export traffic manager for 10 years. She holds a B.A. in Asian Studies from Cornell University.

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