Making Safe Forklift Operation a Priority
According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were roughly 7,000 non-fatal and more than 70 fatal injuries involving forklift operation in 2020.
The regulations regarding forklifts and other powered industrial vehicles are extensive, but there are a number of key points all companies and operators should keep in mind.
- Only trained and certified workers may operate a forklift. The operator training should be appropriate for the vehicle used. During the holiday season, there may be minors helping out in a facility, but individuals under the age of 18 should never operate these vehicles.
- Check the vehicle load. Be sure that the vehicle load is not exceeded and ensure it is stable and balanced
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Keep a safe distance. This means maintaining a safe distance from the platform, ramp, and loading dock edges. Never back up a forklift to the dock’s edge.
- Maintain safe clearances for aisles and at loading docks or passages.
- Provide visual warnings near dock edges.
- Follow required procedures when refueling gas or propane fueled forklifts.
- Train workers on the hazards associated with the combustion byproducts of forklift
In terms of forklift maintenance and repair, it is imperative that vehicles are maintained in accordance with its manufacturers’ recommendation.
Do not modify or make additions to the forklift that could affect capacity and/or safe operation without prior written approval from the manufacturer.
Storing the forklift properly also poses risks. Operators must position forklifts and apply the brakes before attempting to change or charge the batteries.
A fire extinguisher, eyewash station, and safety shower facility should also be nearby for workers who may be exposed to battery acids. There should also be adequate ventilation to disperse fumes from gassing batteries.
OSHA also has additional resources and guides to assist in the safe operation of these vehicles.
- Powered Industrial Trucks–Forklifts: OSHA Safety and Health topic page dedicated to the understanding of forklift hazards.
- Powered Industrial Truck (Forklift) eTool: A web-based training tool with information about OSHA’s requirements and best practices.
- Protecting Pedestrian Traffic: Addresses protecting pedestrians working in and around forklifts in a warehouses.
- Forklift Safety QuickCard: OSHA Publication 3949. Also available in Spanish.
- Preventing Backovers: OSHA Safety and Health topic page dedicated to preventing injuries to pedestrians working in the same areas as motorized equipment where hazards such as being struck by a vehicle operating in reverse (backover) can occur.
- Fatal Facts: Warehouse Fall from Pallet Elevated by Forklift: OSHA Publication 3916.
- Standup Forklift Under-ride Hazards: A Safety and Health Information Bulletin addressing crushing hazards associated with operating forklifts near storage racks or other obstructions in warehouses.
- Diesel Exhaust: Vehicle exhaust from engines running in a warehouse is a serious hazard that affects indoor air quality. This OSHA Safety and Health topic page is dedicated to preventing the hazards of exposure to diesel exhaust.
- OSHA Fact Sheet: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: This hazard is created by the incomplete burning of fuel gases such as propane, which may be used to power powered industrial trucks.
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