In industrial facilities, forklifts are very practical when lifting and transporting heavy loads. However, as with any other heavy machinery, they come with their own safety risks and require extreme care to make sure the safety of the operator and other workers. In fact, around 14% of all workplace accidents an 11% of fatal work accidents are related to forklift safety hazards.
Here are 5 most common forklift safety hazards and how to fix them.
Whether it is overloading or loading incorrectly, loading errors can be critical safety issues that can cause overturns or other accidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities. Loads should always be secured before moving the forklift and the operator should make sure the load is stable and not exceeding capacity. Extra caution is necessary when carrying hazardous materials since any spills can put the entire work zone and the employees in it in danger.
The most viable solution for this forklift safety hazard is to provide proper training to all forklift operators on how to safely load the vehicle without overloading or unstable stacking. In the case of a loading error that results in an overturn and injury, making sure that relevant health personnel are notified immediately of the identity and location of the employee that was injured can reduce critical response time and may save lives.
Maneuvering and Blind Spots
Forklifts are large vehicles that present very unique challenges when driving. Drivers can potentially collide with pedestrians, vehicles or other equipment if they’re not paying close attention to their surroundings. The load is located in the front of the forklift, obstructing the frontal view and forcing the operator to frequently drive in reverse. Rear-end steering makes the forklift take tight turns in the front but swings wide in the back. Narrow or cluttered aisles and high pedestrian traffic also make it difficult for operators to navigate the vehicle.
The most effective way to fix this is to provide all vehicles, vehicle operators and pedestrians location awareness with a collision avoidance system. With this solution, everyone in the work zone can be warned when there is a risk of collision. SafeSteps Forklift Collision Avoidance System utilizes a 2-level warning mechanism based on distance parameters set by the organization, which allows for more nuance and balance between efficiency and safety.
Another important forklift safety hazard is managing the speed of the vehicle. The weight combined with speed creates momentum making it hard to stop in time at high speeds. The damage caused by a high-speed vehicle is also much more than a vehicle that is moving under the speed limit set by the safety standards. Collisions and other accidents are much more likely to happen when the vehicle is being operated above the speed limit.
This safety issue is also one that can be solved with adequate training on the regulations of operating heavy moving machinery. It is also possible to automate speed control for forklifts in risky situations to ensure human error is not a factor that can cause an accident. With zone-based speed control, the parameters of slowing down or stopping can be set based on the riskiness of the zones. When there is a risk of collision in crowded, high-traffic zones, the vehicle will automatically be stopped. Meanwhile, in wider zones with less pedestrian traffic, the vehicle can be automatically slowed down to prevent any risk of collision.
Lack of Maintenance
Like other equipment used in workplaces, forklifts require frequent maintenance checks. Organizations are obligated by national and international labor laws to ensure all vehicles used within the workplace are functional and have no issues such as broken lights and alarms, worn forks, stretched chains, chunked tires, or fluid leaks to prevent accidents and injuries. Vehicles that require maintenance should be shut down and take out of service until they are repaired.
Tracking the usage of forklifts can be useful to make sure vehicles that are in need of maintenance work are not being used to prevent forklift safety hazards. Using location sensors, plant managers can make sure vehicle are where they are supposed to be. Implementing and following a maintenance schedule can also be beneficial to keep track of maintenance work.
Many forklift safety hazards can be minimized with connectivity technologies. Connected vehicles and employees can improve the visibility and traceability of forklift operations while boosting safety in the entire facility.
Check out SafeSteps Work Health and Safety Solution to find out how you can achieve forklift safety.