Members of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) sponsored the seventh annual National Forklift Safety Day on June 9. The event provides an opportunity for the industry to educate customers, government officials, and other stakeholders about the safe use of forklifts, including the importance of training for operators and for pedestrians who work around forklifts. ITA members manufacture over 90 percent of the forklifts and similar powered industrial trucks sold in North America. The organization promotes standards development, advances safe forklift design and use, disseminates statistical information, and holds industry forums.
This year’s National Forklift Safety Day program was presented virtually, with videos and webinar-style presentations by experts on a range of safety-related topics. The following are some of the highlights:
ITA President Brian Feehan and Jay Gusler, ITA Chairman and Executive Vice President of Operations, Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America (MCFA), welcomed viewers. Their remarks focused on the ongoing commitment to forklift safety by the organization, its members, and the industry as a whole. “Safety has been and will continue to be paramount to our industry,” said Gusler. “Collectively we dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure the safety of our products. ... Safety requires dedication, time, and perseverance. We must take the time to ensure proper safety training is adhered to and make it a priority.”
Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), noted that 2020 marks 50 years since OSHA was formed and federal workplace safety and health protections were signed into law. Despite long-term progress in reducing the number of forklift-related accidents, in FY 2018, the number of serious forklift-related injuries increased by 4% over the previous year, and there were 85 fatalities, she said. Emphasizing the importance of proper training, she pointed out that in FY 2019, four of the five most frequently cited violations of the powered industrial truck rules in CFR 1910.178 involved inadequate or improper operator training, evaluation, and certification.
Sweatt urged forklift users to take advantage of OSHA’s educational resources, including a free on-site health and safety consultation for small businesses. Businesses may also apply to participate in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), under which management, labor, and OSHA collaborate to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses by focusing on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment, and worker involvement.
Sweatt added that OSHA is examining an update to its powered industrial truck (PIT) standards, and that two regulatory actions are currently in process. The first would update employer requirements for operations, maintenance, and worker training, she said. The agency is now analyzing comments submitted in response to a request for information (RFI) issued last year. The second—something the forklift industry has long advocated—would update references to PIT consensus standards in OSHA rules. If the proposal moves forward, Sweatt explained, OSHA rules will incorporate by reference current industry practice, forklift design, and technology, rather than older, sometimes outdated information. OSHA expects to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking by the end of this year, she said.
Finally, Sweatt outlined the many resources OSHA has made available to assist workplaces in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. OSHA is closely coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies to monitor the pandemic, she said. She recommended that facility managers take advantage of OSHA’s guidance about workplace risk assessment, controls, cleaning, and more at www.osha.gov/coronavirus.
Pedestrian safety was the focus of a presentation by Chuck Leon, Technical Specialist, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS). Leon offered many suggestions for reducing risk to pedestrians where forklifts are in use. Examples include:
J. Scott Bicksler, Lead Safety Manager for the staffing agency Aerotek, spoke about the safety of forklift operators who are temporary employees. Bicksler, whose company employs about 9,000 lift truck operators, explained how the host employer and the staffing agency can best work together in three important areas:
1. Evaluating and contracting—Before signing a contract with a temporary labor agency, the host employer and the agency should conduct a joint risk assessment, including a site visit and evaluation of the OSHA 300 log (a form for recording information about reportable injuries and illnesses). The contract should specify each party’s responsibilities for activities such as operator training, OSHA reporting, and provision of protective gear, among others. Job descriptions for each position should be clearly defined.
2. Training for temporary workers and supervisors—Typically the staffing agency is responsible for general safety awareness training, and the host must give temporary workers training that is equivalent to what regular employees in the same jobs receive, Bicksler said. Supervisors must know the limitations and requirements for training temporary forklift operators; if a temp is moved to a new position or the job description changes, the employer must notify the staffing agency right away, as any change can impact workers’ compensation claims—for example, if an accident occurs in a job the worker has not been trained for.
3. Injury and illness reporting, response, and recordkeeping—Temporary employees need to know to whom they should report an injury or incident. When an incident or injury occurs, supervisors should immediately inform the agency and also record the incident in the OSHA 300 log. Research has found that waiting to report and record injuries contributes to higher workers compensation costs, Bicksler said.
(For more about working with temporary forklift operators, read the 2018 DCV Q&A with Bicksler.)
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped business and the public understand how vital forklifts are to the functioning of the global supply chain, said Chuck Moratz, NFSD Task Force Chair and Senior Vice President, Global Engineering, Clark Material Handling Co. Lift trucks are critical tools that allow grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential businesses to ensure that the public gets needed personal hygiene products, food, medicines, and safety supplies, he said.
In a discussion of forklift accident trends, Moratz noted that after declining steadily for years after OSHA began requiring operator training and certification in the early 1990s, the number of forklift accidents rose slightly after 2011, and the number of fatal accidents saw an uptick in 2018. He attributed the rise in large part to a significant increase since 2011 in the number of rider forklifts and pallet trucks being used in the United States. Moratz emphasized that safety is everyone’s responsibility, because the data “are not really numbers we’re talking about. Each number represents people: your co-workers, family, and friends whose lives have been disrupted by accidents.”
The Industrial Truck Association’s National Forklift Safety Day webcast is still available at no charge online. Registrants will receive access to the slides from the presentations by Sweatt, Leon, and Bicksler. Click here to register. And click here to read all of DC Velocity’s special NFSD 2020 coverage and forklift safety articles.