Forklifts are one of the most commonly used types of vehicles across the country. These powered industrial vehicles are seen everywhere from construction sites to factory floors.
Unfortunately, the fact that they're so common may lure workers into a certain false sense of security around them. People are inclined to forget just how dangerous these machines can actually be.
What types of danger do forklifts actually present?
1. Drivers are at a risk when they aren't trained properly. Some lifts can hoist their loads higher than hand trucks -- which puts them at risk of toppling if the load is too heavy or improperly balanced.
2. Pedestrians -- which include any workers in the area of a lift that's in operation -- are at a great risk of injury inside factory floors and warehouses where it can be hard to watch for a lot of simultaneous dangers and movements and listen for warning signals from the forklifts at the same time.
3. Drivers and pedestrian workers alike are at risk of serious injury or death due to common forklift accidents, like:
- driving off a ramp or loading dock
- falling in the space between a trailer and a loading dock when the two aren't properly tied together
- falling from an elevated pallet because the lift is misdirected
- being buried under falling objects when the lift accidentally bumps into towering shelves of inventory
4. There are federal laws in place that make it illegal for anyone aged 18 and under to operate a forklift -- no matter how much driving experience that person has. Operators over the age of 18 are required to be trained to handle a forklift and properly certified.
The prohibition against young and untrained drivers is in recognition that forklift safety affects everyone in the vicinity of a machine in operation -- and operating a forklift is not at all similar to operating other types of vehicles because of its size, bulk, range of movement and balance issues.
Every employer who uses forklifts should be proactive about employee safety where these machines are concerned. That's the best way to reduce both serious injuries and workers' compensation claims related to these machines.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Powered Industrial Trucks - Forklifts," accessed May 11, 2018