Reducing Forklift-Related Industrial Accidents

Every workplace has potential dangers for employees and equipment. However those in industrial and warehouse settings are at a greater risk for serious accidents, due to the involvement of heavy machinery, including material handling equipment (MHE). Though there are several rules, regulations, and safety standards established to help reduce the number and severity of accidents in these workplaces by organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there is still an alarming amount of incidents that occur. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and OSHA estimate there are 100 worker deaths per year and over 20,000 injuries, all related to forklifts, each year. Those statistics are just for the United States. Statistics also show that each year, about 11% of all forklifts will be involved in an industrial-type accident.

With those numbers in mind, forklift safety is an important topic to address. Daily checklists can be helpful for addressing potential concerns with the MHE, and safety guidelines and proper training for operators can help address other potential safety issues. While no amount of training or machine maintenance will ever eliminate the risk for industrial accidents, following best practices can help drastically reduce the potential for work-related deaths, worker injury, and forklift, property, and merchandise damage.

Safety Practices for Operators

Operating heavy machinery requires special training, and that education should be specific for the type of equipment being used. For forklifts, OSHA requires that all operators (with few agricultural exceptions) be over age of 18 and be trained & certified to operate forklifts. Operators must also be alert, focused, aware of their surroundings, and familiar with the environment, inventory, and machinery.

Safety Practices for Forklifts

With so many operational details to consider, implementing a standard, daily machine checklist is one way many workplaces can ensure best practices and safety procedures are followed by all shifts and operators. To help get companies started, OSHA provides several sample daily inspection checklists on their website. A sample forklift checklist from OSHA is also below.

KEY OFF Procedures

  • The vehicle inspection
    • Overhead guard
    • Hydraulic cylinders
    • Mast assembly
    • Lift chains and rollers
    • Forks
    • Tires
  • Examine the battery
  • Check the hydraulic fluid level

KEY ON Procedures

  • Check the gauges
    • Hour meter
    • Battery discharge indicator
  • Test the standard equipment
    • Steering
    • Brakes
    • Front, tail, and brake lights
    • Horn
    • Safety seat (if equipped)
  • Check the operation of load-handling attachments

Checklist from OSHA website

Another vital issue is monitoring the load capacity for forklifts. Preventing overloaded machines will drastically reduce the risk of tip-overs and other related accidents. Always be sure operators carefully check turning speeds, perform proper fork lowering and tilting to stabilize loads, adhere to published capacity limits for the machinery, and make sure all loads are stable, even, and stacked low.

Safety Begins with Preparation

Providing educational resources for your operators, ensuring all OSHA guidelines are met, and implementing company-wide safety protocol are all ways businesses can reduce the risk for workplace injury and property damage. Though no one method, or even combination of tactics, will eliminate all risk, it is possible to lower the overall potential for industrial accidents. There are many published resources, guidelines, and checklists to help get your team started, including this eTool from OSHA.

Following MHE safety guidelines will not only protect your workers, products, warehouse, and forklifts, it will also keep you in good standing with regulatory bodies such as OSHA.