June 19, 2018

National Forklift Safety Day 2018 fulfills its educational mission

National Forklift Safety Day 2018 fulfills its educational mission

Washington event featured speakers from government, industry, and a safety advocacy group; attendees also met with legislators to discuss safety and trade.

By Toby Gooley

On June 12, members of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), which represents lift truck manufacturers and suppliers of associated parts and accessories, sponsored the fifth 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:

  • ITA President Brian Feehan and Scott Johnson, ITA chairman and vice president of sales and marketing, Clark Material Handling, led off with overviews of the purpose of National Forklift Safety Day and the economic importance of the lift truck industry. They cited record-breaking industrial truck sales in 2017 of more than 253,000 units, the third consecutive year of record sales. They also emphasized the importance of "free and fair trade" to the industry.

  • Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), praised a long-running alliance between ITA and her agency that trains OSHA inspectors on forklift safety. She also noted that approximately 7,000 incidents, including 72 fatalities, involving powered industrial trucks were reported to OSHA in 2016. While the number of accidents has declined over the years, those numbers suggest that facility operators must further improve their safety practices, she said.
  • Pressure is building for Congress to confirm FedEx Ground safety head Scott Mugno to lead OSHA, said Tommy Nguyen, staff director for Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee's Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. (Sweatt is temporarily the top administrator.) Mugno's nomination has been approved by the HELP Committee but awaits confirmation by the full Senate. Nguyen also said the Trump administration is "cooperative, not combative" when dealing with employers, and that business welcomes the administration's approach of employing enforcement as a last resort.

  • After a brief mention of the National Safety Council's resources on forklift safety, Jane Terry, senior director, government affairs, focused on the opioid addiction crisis. The impact on employers nationwide is growing, she said. A recent survey found that 70 percent of employers have been affected by substance abuse of all types, but less than one-third believe they are prepared to deal with it in the workplace, she noted. The organization offers a free "Employer Toolkit" with information on how to address this widespread problem.

  • Jim Mozer, ITA National Forklift Safety Day chairman and senior vice president, Crown Equipment Corp., emphasized that proper lift truck operator training is a critical component of an effective workplace. He noted that forklift manufacturers have made great strides in improving the safety of the equipment they design, and that improving safety through both product design and operator training is a continuing responsibility. "Everyone deserves to come home safe, every day," he said.

  • Creating and maintaining a safety-focused culture, defined as the way safety is perceived, valued, prioritized, and integrated into daily activities, was the theme of a presentation by Dr. Wes Scott, president and CEO, Global EHSS Leadership Solutions. Scott outlined common myths—such as that safety costs too much and that it's impossible to have an incident-free workplace—that contribute to accidents and injuries. He also recommended regularly examining "near misses" to identify potential causes of accidents, then using that information to train employees to prevent them.

Following the presentations, attendees headed to Capitol Hill for meetings with representatives, senators, and congressional staffers on forklift safety and international trade issues. At the top of their agenda: support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and opposition to punitive tariffs against Chinese products and on steel and aluminum.

According to ITA, the U.S. powered industrial truck industry annually exports more than $900 million of equipment to Canada and Mexico under NAFTA; its combined trade surplus with those countries reached more than $460 million in 2016. Eliminating NAFTA would lead Canadian and Mexican buyers to switch to powered industrial trucks from other countries, jeopardizing many of the 200,000 U.S. jobs supported by the forklift industry, ITA says.

The lift truck industry also is urging Congress and the White House not to impose tariffs on Chinese-made powered industrial trucks, which, like all foreign-manufactured lift trucks, enter the U.S. duty-free, and to instead focus on opposing tariffs imposed on U.S.-built lift trucks. The U.S. imported approximately $538 million of industrial trucks and parts from China in 2017; the 25-percent tariff on some Chinese-made forklifts and parts announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce would add an estimated $134 million to the cost of those items, according to Commerce Dept. statistics. If China imposes a retaliatory 25-percent tariff on top of its current 9-percent duty on U.S.-made industrial trucks, it would add $13 million to the $53 million of equipment bought from U.S. manufacturers in 2017. The recently imposed 25-percent tariff on steel imported from most countries is also adding considerably to lift truck makers' costs. That could force them to raise prices, negatively affecting sales and, by extension, potentially hurting U.S. jobs.

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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