Forklifts are classified as "industrial trucks" for good reason. They can easily weigh two to three times as much as the average automobile. Add a 2,000-pound pallet to that, and you have quite a bit of heft and momentum when the forklift is in motion. Yet unlike cars, forklifts work in confined environments where pedestrians are also present. As a result, forklifts are a leading cause of accidents in warehouses and industrial settings.
Sadly, those accidents result in an average of 75 deaths each year. For instance, in 2015, a forklift operator in Nebraska was killed when his speeding vehicle veered into racking. Another worker was killed last year when a fellow employee operating a forklift raised the pallet he was standing on to reach product on a second rack level. He fell seven feet to the concrete floor below. Unfortunately, the dangerous practice of lifting unprotected workers on pallets is something I have personally witnessed in DCs.
Unsafe practices like these are what led members of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) to launch National Forklift Safety Day. June 12 marks the fifth annual observance of this industry event, which promotes safe lift truck operation.
While that day is set aside each year for a full slate of activities in Washington, D.C., including meetings with government officials and legislators, it's just one part of a broader safety initiative. ITA works year-round to promote safe forklift practices, and the results are evident in nearly every aspect of today's forklift operations.
For instance, regulations now require that operators be trained on the specific trucks they drive. New technologies, including simulators, make training easier and more effective. New safety features on today's forklifts lock out unauthorized users, preventing use by untrained workers.
Facilities are improving their safety signage, including directional indicators, warning lights, and floor markings to delineate safe work areas. Safety gates on mezzanines and protective barriers at open dock doors prevent forklift falls and overturns, which are the leading cause of operator injury and death.
Non-drivers are also trained on how to stay safe in environments where forklifts are present. Marked walkways clearly define areas for safe movement. Pedestrian workers are also trained to look both ways before stepping into rack aisles, just as they would when crossing a street.
Promoting such safe practices is the reason for National Forklift Safety Day. As the official media partner of this ongoing effort, DC Velocity applauds the members of the ITA for their work in reducing forklift accidents and assuring a safe work environment for all employees.