Forklifts are remarkably simple and are incredibly useful. They allow the movement of heavy loads to be racked in the close quarters of warehouses with ease and precision. However, the same power and capability can and does lead to unfortunate injuries and deadly accidents. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-the U.S. federal agency that oversees workplace health and safety-approximately 70% of all annually reported forklift incidents, including New York forklift accidents, could have been prevented if proper safety training and policies were implemented.
Forklifts come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, from small electric forklifts for confined warehouses to massive forklifts used on docks for loading container ships and, because of their flexibility, they are used in a wide range of conditions.
However, it's important for forklifts to be restricted to the tasks they were designed. A forklift designed for smooth concrete floors inside a warehouse should never be used outside on an uneven surface.
The most important rule, however, is proper training of all forklift operators and prohibiting individuals beside trained operators to use them. Another employee, "just helping out" is a recipe for damage, injury and potentially death.
A forklift can injure and kill in numerous ways. Operators as well as individuals in the present of forklifts (like employees) should be weary of the following:
- Forklifts can easily pin a person: These machines tend to be heavy, to counter balance the weight of the load. If workers get caught between the forklift and a pallet or wall, they can easily be crushed or killed.
- Forklifts tip: Lifting loads to great heights is inherently unstable, and workers should be kept away from the load. They need to avoid being directly under the load and should remain a distance at least as great as the load is high, protecting should the forklift tip.
- Forklifts can be unstable: Workers need to be careful with the load they are lifting, ensuring it is stable, because shifting of the load while being lifted or while the lift is in motion, can cause it to fall.
- Because of the great hydraulic forces at work, anytime an operator extends a load, all workers should be well clear of any loads the operator is extending.
- Forklifts exceed loading capacities: Make certain the correct forklift is being used. It should fit in the space, it must have the capacity to lift the load safely and it should be the correct type for the surface where it will operate.
In addition to training in the operation of the forklift, employees should be familiar with the surroundings where they will operate the forklift. They should familiarize themselves with where they will be driving, the clearances of doors and other openings, any differences in surface, any ramps or docks and the dimensions of those areas.