Forklift Accidents: Are People Safe Around Your Forklifts?
Each year there are approximately 95,000 forklift accidents that occur. On average, 20,000 forklift accidents involve injury and about 100 results in fatalities. Most of these tragic events can be related to operator errors, but not all of them. Pedestrians are the other group responsible for being involved in forklift accidents. Common operator errors include neglecting to use lights, driving too fast or forgetting to check the hydraulic fluid, but most pedestrian errors can be difficult to anticipate.
Operators are trained and surrounded with well-kept repaired equipment, but pedestrians can be untrained, negligent, uninformed and lack the proper training to prevent serious injury from forklift accidents. One of the most common misconceptions about pedestrian safety is “common sense.” Common sense and good judgment are helpful, but it is not enough to protect employees, visitors, property, and reputation. Many pedestrians assume “the operator will stop when he sees me,” and will continue to walk or stay in the path of a forklift, but sometimes the operator simply cannot see the pedestrian or cannot stop the equipment to avoid a collision.
Here are some reasons why pedestrian accidents occur:
- Distracted drivers/walkers
- Equipment failures
- Challenging conditions
Every day, thousands of people step out onto a crosswalk under the assumption that an approaching automobile will stop for people to cross. So, how different can a forklift be? Very different! Pedestrian safety is essential for your organization to ensure the proper training, equipment and protocols are in place.
Pedestrian Safety is just as important as Operator Safety
The most obvious means of countering pedestrian-related forklift accidents is training. There are three essential areas to train for: complacency, equipment, and environment.
Poor judgment is one of the main causes of pedestrian-related injuries involving forklifts. When a location or operator has a long-standing history of safe operations, it is easy for smart, trained and talented workers to become complacent. Help provide operators with some of these safety tips to avoid complacency.
- Always yield to pedestrians and make eye contact
- Stop, wait, sound the horn and proceed with caution
- Walk the route first to scout for potential issues
- Use a spotter for visibly impaired areas
- Never allow anyone to stand or pass under your load or lift mechanism
- Never carry personnel on forks
- Obey all plant rules and speed limits
It is important to ensure proper and up-to-date equipment for your operation. Include a pre-operation forklift inspection checklist to appropriately maintain a safe environment. If there are any red flags during an inspection, then the equipment should immediately be removed from service until supervised. Here are some equipment accessories that can be added to provide safety.
- Use blue LED safety spotlights to attract the attention of pedestrians
- Warn pedestrians with horns or alarms
- Provide rear-view mirrors
- Provide strobes or rotating beacons
The facility design is one of the best ways to keep pedestrians safe. Proper facility design can ensure pedestrians stay away from traffic when at all possible. Facilities should separate pedestrian walkways from forklift lanes. Here are some safety tips regarding the warehouse environment.
- Marked walkways for pedestrians separated by railings or barriers
- Walkers to wear helmets and colorful vests
- A detection system that sets off flashing lights
- Sensor beams triggered when a forklift approaches
Not everyone is perfect and accidents will happen, but by following these guidelines you will be better equipped to keep your visitors, employees, and operators safe around your forklifts. If you are interested in more information, check out our pedestrian safety guide. We also provide an operation safety guide to help prevent future forklift accidents.