Powered Industrial trucks are the more technical name for forklifts and lift trucks. Although these types of vehicles are extremely common in many types of industries and facilities, they pose a great risk to both the operator and those working around the truck. Every year thousands of workers are injured in forklift accidents and there are nearly one hundred fatalities a year. Although OSHA standard 1910.178 has set regulations and requirements for the safe use of powered industrial trucks, it is also one of the most violated standards every year.
There are several types of forklifts and lift trucks, sit-down trucks, motorized hand trucks, narrow aisle trucks, etc., and associated hazards are dependent on the type and size of the truck. However, the most common causes of forklift fatalities include:
- Tip Over Hazards: Unbalanced forklifts or unstable loads can cause a tip over and crush the operator or an individual who may be working nearby.
- Crushing Hazards: Workers can be crushed between a vehicle and a surface or even between two vehicles.
- Struck-by Hazards: Pedestrians are at a risk of being struck or run over by a forklift or struck by falling material.
- Falling Hazards: Working on platforms on the forks of a powered industrial truck can result in serious falls.
Employers and facility managers will need to adequately train their operators, conduct inspections, and provide proper protection defined in OSHA’s standard. There are also additional forklift safety measures that can be implemented to significantly improve workplace safety:
- Enforce a speed limit: Like in traffic, posting and enforcing a speed limit will ensure forklifts are traveling at a safe speed.
- Post safety reminders: Visual communication is key to workplace safety; facilities should post signs to remind operators to carry their load low, watch for overhangs, and not allow passengers. Signs can be also be posted alerting pedestrians of forklift crossings and what to watch out for.
- Creating lanes: Forklifts are often traveling in open spaces and other workers. Creating designated lanes for powered industrial trucks and pedestrians will keep both moving around the facility safely.