Common Forklift Accidents and How to Prevent Them
Just because we feel comfortable using one of our tools for our regular work assignments, it doesn’t make the equipment any less dangerous. Though daily warehouse operations call for the use of forklifts, not every task is completed without incident. Even the most trained and experienced forklift operator can still be susceptible to getting in an unfortunate accident in the workplace. As such, all personnel train in the fundamentals of workplace safety and forklift safety to keep themselves from getting hurt. While you’re doing this, be sure you also take some time to learn about some of the most common forklift accidents and how to prevent them.
1. Forklift Overturns
The most common forklift accident is forklift overturns, which is the leading cause of forklift deaths in the U.S. There are a series of factors that cause a forklift to overturn. It could be a result of the operator turning too sharply, stopping too quickly, or driving on uneven or inclined surfaces. Forklifts also overturn if they lose their center of balance, which is due to a malfunction or by carrying an excessive amount of weight. All these different contributors can make it difficult to tell when a forklift is subject to fall over.
How To Prevent:
The most effective preventative measure is staying aware of your surroundings and not overloading your forklift or pushing it past its limits. Also, keep the load as low to the ground when moving to help maintain balance during acceleration and turning. Here are some more tips:
- Follow the speed guidelines from the employer or forklift manufacturer
- Never raise or lower the load while moving/transporting the forklift
- Don’t stop suddenly. Slow down and ease into a stop. You are driving a machine that can be as heavy as a school bus
- Take turns carefully
- When moving up or down a slope, move slowly in a straight line…never an angle
- Keep the load low to the ground. Only raise the load as much as you need to clear the floor surface
2. Pedestrian Collisions
Transporting large, heavy loads can obscure the forklift operator’s vision and significantly increase the chances of running into someone. It’s for this reason that OSHA requires all warehouse workers to be educated in understanding their surroundings. Whether its signage, warnings, or floor tape, a proper understanding of your surroundings will help pedestrians and forklift drivers minimize the interactions they have with one another.
How To Prevent:
In addition to appropriate safety training, you can also equip your warehouse with other safety features such as red zone and blue zone lights. These tools alert pedestrians to oncoming machinery and warn them to stand clear until it passes—further ensuring that the two parties have as little interaction as possible. If you still worry that you may cross paths with someone, you can also find a coworker to spot you and wave away any pedestrians.
3. Falls From a Forklift
While it seems strange that someone would fall from a forklift, these incidents happen and are common, and its essential you know how to prevent them. As warehouses begin stacking their inventory higher, many workers have started using forklifts to help them reach those higher levels. However, forklifts aren’t equipped to handle an uneven distribution of weight, and they can become unbalanced as a result. This can cause the lifted individual to slip and fall, resulting in severe injury or even death.
How To Prevent:
it’s crucial to understand that instead of using a forklift for this purpose, you should use a scissor lift or man lift that comes equipped with more advanced safety features. If you must use a forklift, though, please make sure you use an approved lifting cage attachment or a safety harness for extra fall protection.
4. Falling Loads
Safe lifting practices require all loads to be appropriately positioned on the platform and secured effectively before moving the lift. Unfortunately, because of the unique shapes of some cargo, it isn’t always possible to get them as secure as most would like. Still, these items need to be moved promptly to their destination while maintaining a safe work environment for those surrounding the lift.
How To Prevent:
Its essential personnel is informed the load is being transported, so they can weigh the physics of handling the load. Operators need to fully understand the potential hazards associated with moving an off-balance load, and they must be trained to stay vigilant and react to these hazards. Make sure as well that all operators are familiar with the weight limits of their forklift, so they don’t exceed its lifting capacity and create more problems.
5. Forklift Mechanical Failure
With the overall weight of the forklift and the loads it can carry, severe injury or worse can result should it fail during a job. The causes of forklift mechanical failure can vary based on the make, age, model, and level of use of the machine. It’s best always to be prepared by performing regular forklift inspections and keeping up with routine maintenance. These inspections should include checking key components such as the battery, lifting platform, engine, steering, and wheels. The importance of forklift maintenance is also evident when you factor in how complex these machines can be. Each component needs to be working effectively in tandem with one another to maintain the forklift’s balance, lifting power, controllability, and, of course, safety features. This means that the deterioration of one part can put the driver and the job itself at risk.
6. Environment Collisions
The standard warehouse workspace tends to be tight and compact, with parcels scattered about and narrow aisles of inventory to navigate. This often makes it difficult for pedestrians to maneuver through space—let alone a large piece of heavy machinery. So, in addition to running into pedestrians, forklift operators are also commonly at risk for accidentally hitting objects throughout their work environment.
How To Prevent:
What’s the best method to prevent these situations from occurring? It’s best to keep the warehouse as organized and neat as possible. This means removing clutter from the aisles, keeping loading docks clean, and creating an efficient organizational system. Make sure that drivers are also aware that they need to warn the surrounding workers whenever they go to move around a corner or are ascending a ramp.
At Toyota Material Handling Ohio, we understand that working on the warehouse floor comes with its own unique set of dangers. That’s why we seek to ease some of your worries by providing you with forklift safety training, quality forklifts, forklift parts, and professional forklift service. With our stock of narrow aisle and 3-wheel forklifts, you’re sure to find the right model to suit your needs and workplace environment.
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