This past March, two lift trucks collided at a DC near Allentown, Pennsylvania. When forklifts collide, the impact is not like a couple of cars tapping bumpers. Forklifts weigh two to three times as much as most automobiles and are not designed to absorb impacts the way cars do. This particular collision killed one of the drivers, an experienced 61-year-old forklift operator who left behind a wife, a daughter, and three grandchildren.
Sadly, this was just one of the 85 to 100 deaths that result annually nationwide from forklift accidents. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are about 95,000 reported forklift accidents each year, and more than 30,000 of these result in serious injury.
Most of the accidents are minor, but some are serious, including hitting racks, sliding out of control on wet surfaces, collisions, and striking pedestrians. Of all the causes for OSHA citations issued last year, forklift violations were number nine on the list.
I share these statistics with you to emphasize a point: We must take forklift safety seriously. According to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) and the National Safety Council, 70% of all industrial accidents nationwide are caused by operator error. This means that many accidents could theoretically be prevented if proper training were provided and operators adhered to established safety rules and procedures. In practical terms, OSHA estimates that accidents could be reduced at least 25% to 30% with effective operator training.
The good news is that today’s lift trucks are equipped with more safety features than ever. In fact, keeping operators safe is the most important design concern for forklift manufacturers. But if those operators engage in risky behaviors, accidents can still happen.
To help prevent injuries, safety experts urge operators not to raise or lower loads while moving, and advise them to keep loads as low as possible to prevent tip-over accidents. Tip-overs are the leading cause of forklift deaths and typically occur when an operator attempts to jump from a truck when it begins to roll over and is then crushed by the vehicle or load. Instead, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that operators try to remain in the vehicle—holding on firmly and leaning in the opposite direction of the overturn. The vehicle is designed to protect them.
For more tips on forklift safety, including expert advice on training new operators, check out our 2022 National Forklift Safety Day supplement here. And be sure to join the Industrial Truck Association for this year’s National Forklift Safety Day program on June 14. Go to www.indtrk.org to find out how to tune in and get involved.