Forklift accidents have been on the rise over the last decade, increasing by nearly 28% since 2011. Every year, at least 85 deaths occur due to forklifts. There are several reasons for this increasing number of deaths including inexperience or careless driving. We have done research to determine the most common causes of forklift accidents. Hopefully, being aware of the most common hazards will help forklift operators be more careful on their machines.
Poor Communication – It is extremely vital to be able to clearly convey yourself on the worksite, whether that be vocally, through radio, or hand signals. Too many accidents (especially when backing-up a vehicle) occur because someone was not there to warn the driver or communicate clearly. All employees need to keep themselves alert if someone needs to convey information to them. If none of the communication methods mentioned above are available and someone needs to speak to the operator, then the driver should stop the vehicle, signal for the coworker to approach and then speak to each other before continuing to work.
Insufficient Operator Training – Too often do workers make justifications to operate machinery. “This needs to be done now”, “It’s just for one small task”, “I’m experienced enough”; these are all things people said before getting in serious forklift accidents. If you need to operate a forklift, you need ALL the necessary qualifications. This includes the training, certification, licensing, and anything else required by law for your area and worksite.
Ill-Maintained Forklifts - This is the reason why pre-shift inspections are so essential. It could be the smallest issue, but a poorly operating forklift is an unsafe one. Never make justifications or modifications of your own, these can end up causing worse accidents than a neglected inspection.
Unsafe Workplace Layouts – Finally, you should never operate in any area where the layout is poorly maintained or inspected. These areas need to have clear and easy pathways for forklift to operate without slipping, becoming damaged, or getting stuck. Employees have the legal right to refuse any job they feel unsafe doing. Only do what you feel safe doing and never take unnecessary risks.
These accidents are all too frequent in our work zones. As we have previously mentioned, our hope is that you now are better aware of these hazards so you can avoid them. This will keep you and your coworkers safe as you go about your day. For more information on forklifts, the Hard Hat Training series has in-depth training programs on forklift operation, statistics, safety procedures, and much more.